Allison had been thinking about leaving Nashville for a while, but Woodstock was the last straw.
"Of course you can't go!" her grandfather said. "As if I would allow an Argent into that hotbed of perversity and Communism!"
"But the Hales' final performance—"
"Is none of your concern," he declared. "Not since they went on that Smothers Brothers Hour. Downright un-American, is what that was, and at a time of war, too."
"I don't know why you'd want to go," Aunt Kate said. "Those hippies are all so dirty, they probably won't even have bathrooms. Your hair would go all wavy." She made a face.
Dad looked sympathetic, but Allison knew he wouldn't be able to change Gerard's mind by himself. (That was the level of disrespect she had for him, now; she referred to her grandfather by his first name. Only in her own mind, but still.) Her mother would have let her go, probably would have come with her if only out of professional respect for the family they'd toured auditoriums with back when Allison was small and their political differences didn't seem so large. But now Mom was gone, and Dad only had so much energy to push back when Gerard and Kate teamed up against him. He had to pick his battles, and Allison wasn't going to make her behavior one of them—at least, any more than it already was.
"Fine," she said, picking up her bag and her guitar from a nearby chair.
"And just where are you going, young lady?" Gerard asked.
"Kira's," she said. "We'll probably get dinner. Don't wait on me."
The screen door banged against the frame as she dashed down the steps to the driveway, but that didn't block out the sound of Aunt Kate asking Dad why he couldn't "control your own daughter better. Honestly, Chris, Victoria's been dead for a year now and you let that girl run wild."
Allison rebelliously turned up the radio once her car started. But what came bursting out of the speakers was Tammy Wynette, not the most effective push back on Gerard. It could at least have been Merle Haggard.
When she got to Kira's they went up to her bedroom to eat leftovers and listen to Beggars Banquet, because Gerard didn't allow Allison to bring Rolling Stones records into the house. Kira didn't even ask Allison what was wrong; by now she was used to her place being a refuge. Her parents taught at Vanderbilt, and she went to school there as well, so she was as stuck as Allison was. At least her parents let her play guitar for various singers and songwriters around town, which was how she and Allison had met.
"How about," Allison said, "instead of going to Woodstock we just move to Los Angeles?"
"He won't let you go?" Kira asked.
She shook her head.
Allison pulled a letter out of her bag. "My friend Cora Hale's been trying to get me to come out there for a while now, since her family settled there. She says the scene is really something. I have some money saved, and my car to get us there, but it would be a drag to drive out by myself."
Kira cocked her head. "You think they'd let me sing something other than 'Sukiyaki?'"
"Maybe?" Allison said. "Better than here, anyway."
"I have some relatives out there," Kira said. "But would your family let you move?"
"We're over eighteen. They can't do anything about it." Allison paused, then said: "Anyway, since Dad stopped singing, Gerard's only paying attention to Aunt Kate's solo album. If I left it wouldn't affect the business very much at all."
"And you'd leave your father?" Kira asked.
"I'm just one more thing for Gerard to fight with him about," she said, shrugging. "Maybe if I go, he can stop worrying about me and do what he wants."
Kira nodded sympathetically. "Well, if I stayed here I'd just waste more of my parents' money on school. I want to make music." The record ended and she flipped it over; when she put the needle back down Mick started singing about hearing marching feet in the streets.
Allison focused on her dinner, didn't dare to look up. She tried not to hold her breath.
Then Kira turned around, hands on her hips. "So when are we going?"
Allison's eyes flew open in surprise, and then she started grinning. "You really want to?"
"Nashville is a drag anyway," Kira said, shrugging, "but it'd be a stone drag without you here."
"You won't regret it!" She jumped up to embrace her friend. "It's going to be super!"
"Man, this is a drag," Stiles said.
Scott nodded. Being kicked out of a band was one thing—Jackson and Danny kept the name even though Scott had formed the band in the first place—but seeing them play out with their new members was something else altogether. Not that the new band was any good, but Jackson was the kind of handsome asshole who made a good front man. The one kernel of truth in their whole conflict was that Scott had never been comfortable being that himself.
Well, at least he'd kept his songs.
"Those twins are assholes," Liam said. "Also Mason told me he saw Danny necking with one of them at Matt's party last week. The one on guitar, I think?"
"Probably the drummer," Stiles said, his voice sounding small. "Danny likes drummers."
"I'm gonna split," Scott said. "These songs are terrible anyway."
Stiles blinked at him. "I thought you said—"
"I know what I said. We came, we made our point." Scott threw a few bills on the bar and walked out.
The night air was cool but humid and not as refreshing as Scott had hoped. He was restless, like his skin was too tight. They could go back to the apartment and smoke up, probably would eventually, but getting high (as much as a werewolf could, which was just a particular kind of mellow) didn't help him change his situation. That took a clearer head.
Stiles, of course, had followed him out. "Guess it's nice to know you can always be completely replaced, right?" He laughed, mirthlessly. "Except your songs. So they'll still be a shitty band."
Scott grunted. "Let's take a walk," he said. "Go to the park."
Despite the best efforts of the cops there were always kids camping out in Golden Gate Park, at least, the ones who weren't sleeping in apartment building hallways in the Haight. Someone somewhere was playing a guitar, and some girls were dancing. Scott wished he had enough funds to head out to Woodstock, or at least get out of town for a while until the whole dumb thing with Jackson blew over. Or maybe—
"What do you think about relocating?" Scott asked, suddenly, interrupting Stiles's monologue about nuclear submarines. Scott was seriously considering forbidding him from reading Life magazine ever again.
"Uh, where?" Stiles asked.
"I dunno. LA? Not that far and we won't need new plates for the car or anything. My mom has a sister down there."
"I guess we could," Stiles said. "Nothing keeping us here."
"Lots of session work," Scott added. "Maybe I could write songs for TV shows or something."
"Like the Monkees, or like Mannix?"
Scott grinned. "Either. Both."
"Where you go, I go, man. Like a bad penny."
"You can't tell," Scott said, shrugging. "Maybe our luck will change."
Allison and Kira arrived in Los Angeles mid-afternoon on a Tuesday in early September, having spent the night before with an old school chum of Allison's mother who lived in Tucson. Allison had only been to LA a few times, for concerts and television appearances, and she'd never been up in the hills above Hollywood. The Hale compound consisted of three houses off Laurel Canyon Boulevard which shared a driveway with a gate across it. Cora had told Allison to come straight to the large house at the center, but as she parked the car she could see two bungalows set further back from the road.
"Wow," Kira said, looking around. "Guess they have room for us."
"Probably," Allison replied. "There are a lot of Hales."
Cora was standing in the doorway, arms crossed, a slight frown on her face. "This is Kira?" she asked.
"Be cool," Allison said. "She's all right."
Talia came up just after. "Cora, don't be unwelcoming," she scolded. "Let them in."
Cora rolled her eyes at Allison before moving out of the way.
"Allison, we're so glad you came," Talia said, giving her a hug. "We've all missed you."
"I missed you too," Allison said.
"And this must be your friend Kira," Talia said as she released her and led them into the house. "A guitar, good, you'll fit in just fine. I'm Talia, and I hope you'll call me that. Took me years to train the 'Mrs. Hale' out of this one. Don't worry; George and I live in the little house out back, so you kids can have the big house to yourselves without us getting in your hair. While I get Kira settled, Allison, you should call your father and let him know you got in okay."
Allison nodded, because of course Dad had called Talia himself. "I will."
"I'm glad you told him that you were leaving," Talia said. "That's being an adult."
"Yeah," Allison said, though she hadn't thought about it that way. She just hadn't wanted to leave Dad to face Gerard and Aunt Kate with no warning. "I guess it is."
Cora showed her into the office. "Derek and Dad will be around for dinner. Malia, too, if she's up to it."
"How's she doing?" Allison asked.
"She has good days and bad days," Cora replied. "Oh, and some friends are staying here, Lydia and Erica and Braeden. Lydia and Erica are at the beach now but they should be back for dinner. Braeden is a friend of Derek's. She kind of comes and goes."
"If I'd known you had a houseful—"
"Mom likes it that way," Cora said. "She wants music to happen. She'll give you the whole speech but, yeah. Anyway, talk as long as you want. I'll bring your things up."
"I can do that myself," Allison said.
Cora raised an eyebrow. "It's no big deal. I'm a lot stronger than you," she said, and closed the door behind her.
Dad picked up on the first ring. "Hello?" he answered, sounding harried.
"Hi, Dad, it's me. We made it just fine."
"Of course you did," he replied, but she could hear the relief in his voice. "How's Evelyn? Pretty sure her Christmas note to me this year will be all about how charming you are."
"She had a lot of old pictures of Mom," Allison said. "It was nice to talk about her."
"How is it there?" she asked. "Hope he wasn't too angry."
"Oh I can handle him, don't worry," Dad said. "Mostly he was grumbling about those murders last month until I reminded him that even a homicidal maniac wouldn't attack the Hale place."
Allison laughed. "Must be the first time in his life he was glad to know any werewolves," she said.
"Probably!" Dad said, chuckling himself. "But now, you make sure if you're out and about at night that one of them is with you, okay?"
"I can take care of myself!"
"I know, but you shouldn't have to. It isn't the old days, no matter what your grandfather says. This is human business. Besides, the police get concerned about girls wandering around with crossbows, even if their people are hunters."
"Fine," Allison said, sighing.
"All right. Send some postcards now."
"You sure you'll be okay?" she asked.
"It's my job to worry about you, not the other way around," he said. "And as we discussed, I have some thinking to do. But I won't go anyplace without telling you." He paused, then: "I'm real proud of you, Allison."
"Thanks, Dad," she said. "I'm proud of us."
"Man, this pad is pretty far out," Scott said, looking around the room. "It might even be bigger than our place in San Francisco."
"More windows, for sure," Stiles replied.
Scott was looking out of one of them, and he could just see Sunset Boulevard at the bottom of the hill, a couple of blocks away.
Stiles stood next to him. "Can't beat the location. And if I keep getting session work we can swing this, easy."
Scott nodded. "Guess you're the breadwinner now." There was more call for drummers—fewer of them to begin with—and Scott had never been a virtuoso guitar player. He played well enough to write, which was the point.
"Not for long, man," Stiles said. "We'll start a band or you'll sell some of those songs. Something's bound to happen."
"You know my aunt's still going to expect us for Sunday dinner," Scott said.
"Groovy," Stiles said. "Leftovers."
Scott tapped a finger against the window pane. He wasn't sure why he was hesitating; there was no reason to. The sign on the door had said wolves welcome, and they'd save a lot of gas being able to just walk to the little cluster of small clubs in the side streets near Sunset. "Okay, let's do it."
They went back downstairs to sign the lease. The landlady had seemed like the stereotypical little old lady when they first met, but now, looking around her tidy little apartment, Scott began to suspect something else.
"Is this you?" he asked, pointing to a promotional picture of a silent movie starlet, complete with fringed dress and a feather in her hair.
She barked out a laugh. "Most people don't recognize me. Babies spread out your hips." She made the same pose as in the photograph, hands on hips and head cocked sassily to the side.
"You've still got it," Scott said, smiling, and elbowed Stiles.
"Definitely," he said. "You should be dancing at the Whisky."
"Oh you flatterers," she said, giggling. "Now, just make sure the place is cleaned up for you. I tried to get rid of all the mess the previous tenant left." She sighed.
"What happened to them?" Stiles asked.
"OD," she said. "Horse is a nasty business. Dealers and hangers-on in and out at all hours." She shook her head.
Scott and Stiles glanced at each other, surprised at her blithe attitude, not to mention the slang. "Um," Scott began.
"You don't think we had all that around back in my day?" she asked. "I was more interested in the nose candy—helped to keep that girlish figure and let you work for hours—but take my advice: jewelry lasts longer." She waved a diamond-wrapped wrist at them.
"Yes, ma'am," Scott said.
Near the bottom of the hill was a cafe, so they ducked in for a sandwich, hoping to wait out the rush hour traffic on the 10 and the 101 before they headed back to East LA. Besides, this was their neighborhood now, so they might as well start acting like they belonged.
"So everyone in this town either used to be in the movies, is in the movies, or wants to be in the movies," Stiles said.
"I guess," Scott said, looking around the cafe and seeing that three different people were reading scripts.
"Haven't you noticed how foxy they all are?' Stiles asked, then leaned in closer. "Even the guys?"
"I suppose," Scott said. "I wasn't thinking about it that much."
Stiles rolled his eyes, but before he could answer, a man approached their table. He looked to be around forty or so, but dressed younger, in a fringed suede jacket and dark granny glasses. "Haven't seen you gentlemen around here before," he said, smiling. "Actors?"
"Musicians," Stiles said. "We're just moving in up the street."
The man nodded. "May I?" he asked, but didn't wait for an answer before sitting in an empty chair at their table. "I hope you consider acting, because you're just the type we're looking for. Both of you."
"Type?" Scott asked.
"My card," he said, handing one to each of them.
"Deucalion Agency," Stiles read. "And you're …?"
"The one and only," he said. "As you might imagine there's a need for youthful types on television at the moment. You know, police dramas, that sort of thing."
Scott squinted. "Like Dragnet?"
"Precisely. And you two just about fit the bill."
"What do you mean, just about?" Stiles asked.
"Well, if I may, your beard isn't entirely successful," he said. Stiles rubbed his chin self-consciously as Deucalion turned to Scott. "And while your mustache is wonderfully luxurious, I'm afraid it may limit you to playing ethnic types."
Now, if someone had said that to him in San Francisco, or even Beacon Hills, he wouldn't have immediately understood what they were getting at. Sure, his mother was Mexican-American, but in Beacon Hills Stiles was just as ethnic as Scott was, and people made weird Polish jokes on TV all the time. (Which Scott didn't get; Stiles and his dad were both really smart.) And in San Francisco there were so many people from different places, at least in the music scene, that it wasn't that much of a thing. But he'd only been living in LA for a week and he already got it, got how different his aunt's block in East LA was from Hollywood or certainly some place like Santa Monica.
Stiles picked up straight away, too. "We like how we are, thanks," he said, his voice like ice as he handed Deucalion his card back. "So we'll be sticking to the music."
"Your friend speaks for you?" Deucalion asked.
Scott nodded, not trusting himself to say anything, because what he wanted to do was be sarcastic in Spanish. But it would go over the guy's head anyway, and he didn't really want to be a jerk just because.
"Suit yourselves," Deucalion said, shrugging. "If you change your minds, you know where to find me."
After he'd walked out Stiles said, "Can you believe that guy? Insulting my beard! What a square!"
"Yeah, what does he know?" Scott said, smiling.
"I saw a Woolworth's around the corner," Stiles said. "We could pick up a few things."
"Cool," Scott replied because, yeah. It already was.
After her call with Dad, Allison went upstairs, trying to find Kira or at least work out which room was hers. She heard two female voices talking and followed the sound to see Kira sitting on a bed not with Cora, but her cousin Malia.
Malia waved shyly, but she was smiling. The last time Allison had seen her, she was standoffish and skittish, still recovering from the accident that killed her mother and sister. But wherever the Hales had sent her had clearly done her a lot of good. Or maybe it was just a good day, like Cora said.
"I was talking to the kitsune," Malia said, and she sounded like her old self. That bluntness, especially about supernatural matters, sometimes made it hard for her to be around humans, but Allison was relieved to hear it. "She's nice. I'm glad you brought her."
"I'm glad I brought her, too," Allison said.
Kira, to her credit, only looked slightly surprised. But then, she'd been talking to Malia for a while, so maybe she was getting used to it. "Malia said she's a coyote!" Kira said, smiling. "You're going to be outnumbered, Allison."
"I don't think anyone would bother me," she said, grinning.
Malia's eyebrows shot up. "You brought the crossbow?" she asked.
Allison nodded. "And Kira has a sword."
"Groovy," Malia replied.
"So what about these other girls staying here that Cora mentioned?" Allison asked.
"Lydia and Erica are cool," Malia said. "Cora met Erica at a festival or something. They weren't friendly to anyone but her at first."
"They're not friendly but they're cool?" Allison asked, crossing her arms.
"They used to be in a group of singers and Cora said they left because they were around some not-cool people. I think maybe they don't trust strangers? I can understand that." Malia looked away for a moment, quiet.
Allison wasn't sure what to say, but Kira, still sitting next to Malia on the bed, put a gentle hand on her shoulder.
Malia looked up at them, took a breath, and came back to herself. "But then, you know Aunt Talia; she pushed them past that, at least in the house."
"Pack," Allison explained to Kira. "You don't all have to get along or even like each other, but you have to try."
Malia continued, "So they moved in and they've been singing with Cora. They're girlfriends."
"Well, we're all girlfriends, I hope," Allison replied. "Or will be."
"She means we fuck," said a voice from the door.
Allison turned and saw two women standing in the doorway, a tall blonde and a smaller redhead. They were both in bikinis, wearing unbuttoned cotton shirts as cover-ups, and she remembered Cora saying that they'd been at the beach.
"Each other," the blonde said, clarifying her previous statement. "Will you have a problem with that?"
"No," Allison said, because she'd long since decided that everything Gerard thought was unnatural was probably the opposite. She stood up a little straighter and crossed her arms. "Should I?"
The blonde laughed. "No wonder Cora likes you," she said. "You've got claws. I'm Erica and this is Lydia."
Allison looked back and forth and realized why they seemed familiar. "Ravettes?" she asked.
"Most people don't recognize us without the beehives," Lydia said. "And you're that little girl singer from the Argents, aren't you?"
"Not so little now," Kira said, loyally.
"Not at all," Lydia agreed. "That jacket's gear."
"Thanks," Allison said. "It was my mom's."
Lydia nodded, and that was one upside of being kind of famous—you didn't have to go around telling people your mom had died last year. They just knew.
"You must be Kira?" Lydia asked, walking in to shake her hand.
Kira stood. "Very nice to meet you," she said, grinning.
"She's a kitsune," Malia said.
"Interesting," Lydia replied. "I'm a banshee, and Erica's a wolf."
"I know," Kira said. "I mean, well, I always liked the Ravettes because you're supernatural like me." She giggled.
"A fan, fun," Lydia said, her smile getting ever so slightly strained. "How did you meet Allison?"
"Everyone knows everyone in Nashville," Kira said.
Allison could tell already that such modesty wouldn't go far with a girl like Lydia. "She was playing steel guitar and fiddle for one of the songwriters Gerard was checking out for Kate," Allison said. "She's pretty fantastic."
"Guitar and fiddle?" Lydia asked, cocking her head.
Kira shrugged. "I started on the violin. The rest was sort of easy to pick up."
"Huh," Lydia said. "Well, we're going to get dressed," Lydia said, "and wash the salt out of our hair. But I'm definitely sitting next to Allison at dinner."
"Okay," Allison said, feeling strangely like she'd been claimed.
"You're going to be my new best friend, after all," Lydia said, and then she and Erica went off down the hall.
"Um," Allison said, overwhelmed, and sat down on the bed next to Malia.
Cora poked her head in a moment later, looked at Allison, and asked Malia, "What's with her?"
"She just met Lydia," Malia said.
"She is a lot," said a male voice behind her, and then Derek stepped into the room.
The familiar face broke Allison out of her daze, and she jumped up into his arms. "It is so good to see you!" she said. "How are you?"
"Glad you're here," Derek said, squeezing her tight and then setting her back down on her feet.
"Looks like you stuck with that beard," she said, stroking it. "And your hair is so long!"
Derek smiled. "Guess your grandfather wouldn't approve, huh?"
"Gerard doesn't approve of a lot of things," Allison said, frowning. "Too many things."
"Good thing he's not here," Cora said.
"I'm so sorry I missed your last show! Cora said you're not singing anymore?"
Derek shrugged. "You know how bad my stage fright always was," he replied. "But arranging and stuff—I could be a producer."
"You're definitely bossy enough," Cora said, and Derek elbowed her in the side.
"I think that sounds totally like you," Allison said. "Maybe you can produce me, once I figure out what I'm doing?"
"I'd love to," he said.
"Oh, where are my manners," she said, turning. "This is my friend Kira. She's a guitarist and singer."
"Guitarist first?" Derek asked, shaking her hand. "Not many girl guitarists in LA."
"You've been looking for one?" Kira asked.
Derek shrugged. "I'm kind of used to being around women," he said.
"Cora mentioned you have a friend, Braeden?" Allison asked, smiling. "Is she—"
"A special friend?" Derek asked. "No. She's just a friend. Helping out with a project."
"Derek's a homosexual," Malia said.
"Malia," Cora said, "remember how we said that Derek should tell people himself?"
Malia scowled, defiant. "He wasn't getting to the point," she said.
"Is that why you stopped singing?" Allison asked.
"Not entirely," Derek said. "But, it's easier this way, that's true. Besides, then no one can bother me about my beard."
"Female or otherwise," Cora said.
"How can a female have a beard?" Kira asked.
"I'll tell you later," Malia said.
"Are you happy?" Allison asked.
"I think so," Derek said. "Probably. Happier, anyway."
Cora shook her head. "This is Derek. Even if he were in love he'd still be brooding around like Montgomery Clift."
This earned Cora a dirty look from her brother, but Allison asked: "Are you in love?"
"No," Derek said, smiling a little. "But maybe someday I will be?"
"Good," Allison said. "You deserve it." She smiled back at him, and while she didn't say anything about Kate, the knowledge was there, between them.
"Malia, it's okay that you told this time," Derek said. "Allison's family. But don't do it again, please."
"Okay," she said. "Sorry, Derek."
He glanced at his watch. "Dinner's soon. Mom gets annoyed when we hold it up."
"Your mother is cooking?" Allison asked, surprised.
"No, thank goodness," Cora said. "We have a cook now. Dad found him someplace and he's super. You'll like him."
"I'm sure I will," Allison said. "It'll be a relief not to have to cook."
"You were cooking?" Cora asked.
"Gerard thinks it's important that Kate and I still know how to be good wives. He left my mother alone but after she was gone … " Allison paused. "Well, I can make a really great pie, anyway."
Cora rolled her eyes. "Don't tell Mom. She'll make you read The Feminine Mystique again."
"Like you don't have that Second Sex book on your nightstand," Derek said.
"Snoop," Cora said. "But he's right; we'd better go down for dinner."
Malia walked out the door past them. "Remember, Allison, you have to save a seat next to you for Lydia!"
Allison turned to Kira. "You'll sit on the other side of me, won't you?"
Kira shrugged. "Maybe I'll sit next to Malia. She's kind of fun!"
Cora raised her eyebrows as Kira walked into the hallway. "Guess we won't have to worry about her fitting in," she said.
"Or me?" Allison asked.
"Like Derek said, you're family," Cora said, and went downstairs.
Now that he was in Hollywood and closer to the buses than he'd been in East LA, Scott went out most days that Stiles was working sessions, knocking on the door of every publisher he could find and playing them his songs. He got some interest—not as much as he'd hoped, but some—and even more for the few new songs he'd had a chance to work on since they'd moved.
Maybe it was the sunshine, or that the music scene wasn't as interconnected as in San Francisco, but the new songs were different. More optimistic, even if the world around them might be getting worse.
Stiles was certainly feeling good. "Man, I knew I was a good enough drummer but damn. There's a lot of work and they seem to like me. Weird, huh?"
"You've always been solid," Scott said. "Only reason other bands didn't try to steal you is because they knew there'd be no point in trying."
"Damn straight," Stiles said. "And when we've got something going again I'm leaving this studio stuff, too. Promise."
When Stiles didn't have a session they played in the local coffee houses, on two guitars, to get Scott's songs out there, work on them while making a little extra money. Between that and playing for publishers Scott was getting more used to being the center of attention—or even, demanding some of it for himself. Maybe he didn't have to be sort of a jerk to lead a band, after all. Maybe he could find another way, especially if the other people in his band weren't jerks themselves. It would certainly be more peaceful.
One night a few weeks after they'd moved to LA, Scott and Stiles were playing in a little place on Larrabee, when after their set they were approached by a white guy and a black lady, both ridiculously good looking. Not that this was unusual, but the guy looked vaguely familiar.
"Those songs need a band," he said, without any preamble, and Scott could sense Stiles bristling.
"Well, we don't have one right now, obviously, but thanks for the tip," Stiles said, smiling sarcastically.
The lady scowled at the guy and hit him in the arm with her shoulder. "Oh, um, sorry. I'm Derek Hale." He held out his hand.
Scott shook it and introduced himself, squinting at Derek and trying to place him.
"I'm Stiles," he said, leaning in with his own hand outstretched. "The Hales, right?"
"Yeah," Derek said. "Well, used to be. We're not—I'm behind the scenes now."
"Behind the scenes how?" Scott asked.
"Development, managing, producing. That kind of thing. Those songs are yours?"
"Mostly. Couple of them Stiles wrote."
"Cool. I know a lot of people in this town. I could get you a bass player, a drummer—"
"Stiles is the drummer," Scott said.
Derek turned to him, one eyebrow raised. "Good?"
"Good enough to get steady session work," Stiles replied. "So you want to get us a band. What else?"
"I have access to a studio. Once the band has been playing shows for a while we can lay down some demos and I can take them around the labels. I have contacts."
"And for that you want what?" Stiles asked.
"Shouldn't we sign something? If we did do this?"
The lady smirked at Stiles. "You want to sign something now?"
"Before anybody owes anyone anything, yeah. I like when everyone knows where they stand."
"Not very trusting, are you?" she asked.
"Scott is, and people take advantage of him. I don't like that."
"We'll work something out," Derek said. He handed Scott a card. "What day are you free to come up to our place, meet some people?"
Scott turned to Stiles, who nodded slightly. "Saturday?"
"Groovy. We can make arrangements then."
"Derek," the lady said. "You need to tell them."
"Oh, right," he said, and turned back to Scott. "You don't have a problem working with werewolves, do you?"
Scott grinned. Of course he knew the Hales were werewolves; everyone did. He let his eyes go red. "Not at all."
Derek's eyes widened. "You're an alpha?" he asked.
"It's complicated," Scott said, and shrugged.
Derek didn't look satisfied with that answer, but he said no more. "Saturday. Plan on dinner."
"His mother likes to feed everyone," the lady said.
"I'm sorry; we didn't get your name," Scott said.
She looked him up and down and smiled. "You don't need to know it yet," she said, and walked away.
Derek shook their hands again and followed her out.
"Wow," Scott said.
"Yeah," Stiles agreed. "Man, he looks different with that beard and all."
Scott cocked his head. "That's where I'd seen him! You used to have a picture of them up on your wall! Was that—" Scott lowered his voice, so only Stiles could hear— "did you dig him?"
Stiles shrugged. "I dug the way his ears stuck out. Can't really see them now."
"Pretty eyes, though," Scott said.
"You don't have to do that, you know," Stiles said, but he was smiling.
"You do, for me, with girls," Scott noted.
"I can still appreciate a pretty girl! I had a picture of the Ravettes on my wall and I don't dig Lydia Martin."
"No, you want to be Lydia Martin, and not just for Halloween."
"Her hair is so tall," Stiles said.
It had taken less than a day in Los Angeles for Allison to realize how much her creativity had been stifled by the bad vibes that Gerard had been sending out. She spent most of that first week going through Cora's records, and then Laura's and Derek's and even Talia's, soaking up the music she'd only been able to hear in snippets on the radio or at Kira's house.
She'd known Gerard was the worst. But he was the worst. She was listening to Laura Nyro when Lydia came into the TV room and sat down on the floor next to her.
"Are you going to kneel in front that turntable all day today, too?" Lydia asked. "It's as if you're worshipping it."
"There's so much to catch up on," Allison replied. "Gerard never let me listen to anything. I was lucky to get the Beatles and the only black records we had were Dionne Warwick. But now there's all this Motown to listen to, not to mention these jazz records of Talia's."
"You certainly don't need to listen to this," Lydia said, pulling a record out of the pile. The cover showed four girls with very tall beehive hairdos. "Factory made music for factory made people."
"Pop takes a lot of skill," Allison said. "Besides, I've already listened to it."
"And?" Lydia said.
"The songs really are all about boys," Allison admitted, "but the harmonies are so intricate. No wonder we've been singing together so well."
"Your songs are easy to sing," Lydia said, shrugging.
"And yours?" Allison asked. "Isn't that why you left that factory, you and Erica, so you could sing your own songs?"
Lydia traced her own photograph, finger running over her bright red hair. "Not too popular for girl singers to even think for themselves. Writing their own songs was entirely out of the question."
"Still haven't heard those songs of yours," Allison said.
"Cora is gifted," Allison agreed, because Cora might be the best and most idiosyncratic songwriter she personally knew, never mind being as good a guitarist as Kira. "But so are we. And if the songs are good, they can't stop us anyway." The song changed then, to "Stoned Soul Picnic." "They couldn't stop Laura Nyro."
"True," Lydia said.
"So we'll hear one of your songs tonight?"
"Not tonight, no. Derek's bringing those people he found. Tomorrow night?"
"I'm holding you to that," Allison said, wagging her finger. "They're two boys, aren't they? So strange to have boys in the house again."
"Derek's still a boy, even if he's a homosexual," Lydia said. "After all, I'm still a girl."
"Oh I didn't mean that," Allison said, shaking her head. "Just, Derek's always treated me like a younger sister. Well, a little better than he actually treats his sisters sometimes, but still. We grew up together. It would have been strange." She scrunched up her nose.
"So you're looking forward to seeing some new boys? Since there's only so much you can flirt with the cook?"
"Isaac is a looker," Allison said, "but Cora spends a lot of time down in the kitchens, doesn't she?"
"And you're clearly smart enough not to mention that to her," Lydia said.
"Or I've known her long enough," Allison said, smiling. "Anyway, I'm here to make music, not make love."
Lydia smiled knowingly. "I don't know why you can't do both."
Derek said the turn off to his house could be hard to find, so instead he came by their place so they could follow him. When he pulled up in a black Camaro, Stiles's eyes nearly fell out of his head.
"Oh my god," Stiles whispered, nervously running his hand through his hair.
Scott patted him on the back. "Be cool, man."
"Yeah, cool, that's me," Stiles said, shaking out his shoulders.
Derek perched on the open window of the driver's seat and pulled his sunglasses down his nose to look at them. "A jeep?" he asked.
"She's my baby," Stiles said.
"Your drum kit fits in the back of that?"
"Yeah. Why, should I bring it?"
"No, guitars are enough for tonight. Just stay with me." He slipped back down into the car.
Stiles climbed into the jeep, scowling. "'Stay with me,' he says. It's like, up Sunset and one turn, jeez. I can read a Thomas Guide just as well as anyone else."
Scott just laughed.
And in fact, getting to the Hale place wasn't all that complicated, though their driveway was hidden, and once they'd both pulled in Derek closed the large gate behind them. It wasn't just one house, though the main house was large enough to have several bedrooms, but there was also a bungalow on either side. In the gravel-covered space between the large main house and one of the bungalows, two men were tending a fire pit with a spit above it.
"Ah, welcome!" said the older of the men. "I'm George Hale. You must be those two fellas Derek's so excited about."
"Dad!" Derek said.
George glanced at him and shook his head. "Some people may have convinced my son here that showing your enthusiasm is bad business but I say the heck with that! I'd shake your hands but I'm covered with ash and animal fat at the moment. Isaac here had the grand idea to roast up a whole lamb. He's the chef; I'm just the bottle-washer."
Isaac was tall with curly light brown hair and seemed about the same age as Scott. He waved. "Roasts are good when you have a houseful," he said.
"Especially when most of 'em are wolves," George agreed. "Now don't think we're fancy, having a chef. Talia's kitchen skills got dull, all that time out on the road, and she does enjoy having lots of young people here and providing for them."
"That's an alpha for you," Isaac said.
Derek led the way to the main house, saying, "Sorry about that. My dad …" and then he just shook his head.
"It's cool, man," Stiles said. "My dad's the sheriff where we're from and he never loses an opportunity to embarrass me."
"Yeah," Derek said, blinking in surprise, and his scowl relaxed a notch or two. As soon as he opened the door of the house a blast of jazz came out. "Mom!" he called out, and beckoned Scott and Stiles to come in behind them.
A dark-haired woman in a deep blue caftan and bare feet came around the corner. Derek's resemblance to her was striking. "Welcome, welcome, come in, I'm Talia," she said, smiling. She looked at them, assessing. "You must be the alpha songwriter," she said to Scott, "which makes you the drummer."
"Yes, ma'am," Scott said. "I'm Scott McCall and this is Stiles Stilinski."
"Call me Talia, please," she said. "Wait, Stiles, you'll want to hear this." She held up her hand as the jazz song moved into a drum solo, and the four of them stood, listening, as it went on for nearly a full minute.
Scott looked around for Derek, whose relaxed posture and slightly nodding head suggested that Talia stopping everything to listen to music was a common occurrence. Talia had tilted her head back, eyes half-closed and fingers moving with the solo. Stiles, of course, was transfixed.
"That was incredible!" Stiles said when the song had ended.
Talia nodded. "Roger Humphries playing with Horace Silver. I've always been fond of hard bop. Now, let's bring you in, introduce you. We have a houseful of girls at the moment, or women I should say, so I expect you both to treat them with respect. They're quite fine musicians, all of them."
"Of course," Scott said. There had been plenty of girls in the San Francisco scene, some of them more intimidating than any of the guys. It wasn't just hangers-on, though there were those, too. Scott had played with the former and avoided the latter; unlike Jackson, he hadn't started a band to meet chicks.
They followed Talia through the house, Derek behind them, and now that they'd moved away from Talia's turntable Scott could hear female voices singing in close harmony. Talia led them to a spacious room with several chairs and couches and a fireplace against one wall, and it was full of chicks: the black lady who'd come to their show with Derek; a blonde and a redhead who seemed vaguely familiar; a brunette that was clearly Derek's sister; another girl playing a twelve-string guitar; and a sandy-haired girl sitting next to her playing the bongos. But what fixed Scott's attention was the girl in the middle: dark-haired and dark-eyed and porcelain-skinned, with a beautiful clear voice that was carrying the melody as the others harmonized around her. She was singing about Woodstock, a song Scott hadn't heard before, and when she looked up to see who'd come into the room she nodded, and he nodded back.
Scott sensed rather than saw Stiles flailing and automatically reached out an arm to steady him. It had been a regular enough occurrence during their high school days that it was second nature to Scott now, and he didn't need to look away from the girl in order to do it, though having the senses, reflexes and strength of a werewolf helped. But the girl saw it all, and without faltering at all in her singing she smiled at Scott, all dimples and rosy cheeks, and he was hooked.
When the song ended Scott said, "Wow, did you write that?"
"Yeah," the girl said, nodding, and her cheeks grew pinker. "I didn't get to go, but everyone else in this house did, and they've been talking about it so much that sometimes I feel like I was there."
"Pretty groovy song," he said. "I'm Scott."
"Thanks," she said. "I'm Allison."
The other girls introduced themselves then. The redhead was Lydia Martin from the Ravettes, whom Scott didn't recognize without all the hair but Stiles of course did, hence the flailing when they walked in. The girl with the twelve-string was Kira, who'd moved out to LA with Allison, and Scott recognized her last name as Japanese-American.
Then Talia said, "Scott, you should play us one of your songs."
"I don't want to interrupt," Scott said, because the girls seemed to have a thing going.
"I'd like to hear one," Allison said. "Now that you've heard one of mine."
Scott nodded, because that was fair, so he sat down and pulled his guitar out of its case. Stiles borrowed the bongos from Derek's sandy-haired cousin Malia, and perched on the arm of the couch next to Scott while he double-checked his tuning.
"'Now I Need You'?" Scott asked. Stiles smirked, but he didn't say anything, just nodded, and they were off. Sure, it was kind of a chick magnet of a song, sensitive guy stuff, but he wasn't just singing that because of Allison. The room was full of chicks! And anyways, he hadn't yet figured out how to change the pronouns in Stiles's breakup-with-Danny song so he could sing it himself.
Allison did seem to dig it, though, so that was cool.
"There'd probably be a guitar solo here or something," Scott said after the second chorus, "but that's not really my strength."
But then Kira started picking at her twelve-string, improvising, and it was better than anything Scott had imagined. He'd never heard a girl playing like that, and he played along with her, holding back on singing the chorus again until he sensed she was done.
The others clapped when the song was over, and he appreciated that, but was more interested in Kira's playing. "That was far out!"
"Thanks!" Kira replied. "It was a fun song to play on."
"Yeah," Stiles said, nodding. "It was like you'd played together before."
Kira was grinning, and she certainly didn't seem like a jerk. Besides, Stiles was right. "Maybe we've found a guitarist for our band," Scott said.
"I'd been hoping so," Derek said, and Scott wondered if this had been a set-up on his part. Which was fine, as it worked out and after all, he'd said he'd find them a band.
"A rock band?" Kira asked. "Just playing an electric guitar?"
"You'd be amazing," Allison said.
"Okay," Kira said. "Neat!"
"Anyone who says 'neat' definitely has to be in a band with Scott," Stiles said, which sealed it.
George came in then to say that supper was ready. Scott set his guitar down in the still-open case, and when he looked up, Allison was standing in front of him.
"That was a pretty groovy song," she said. "About a girl you knew?"
"Not really," Scott admitted. "Stiles has session gigs during the day sometimes, and there's this art theater near our place. A couple of weeks ago I saw this French movie, a musical actually, with Gene Kelly?"
"Les Demoiselles de Rochefort?" Allison asked. "I mean, The Young Girls—"
"Yeah!" Scott said. "You've seen it?"
"Last year. My family is from France, and we go back from time to time," Allison said, shrugging just like Catherine Deneuve did in the movie.
"My family is Mexican-American, but we haven't been back," Scott said. "I've been to East LA, though."
They heard someone clearing their throat, and looked up to see Talia in the doorway. "You two joining us for dinner?" she asked.
"Sorry," Scott said. Allison was blushing just a little, but she was still smiling, and without thinking Scott put his hand on her back to escort her into the dining room. The two chairs left were luckily next to each other, and Scott pulled out Allison's for her before sitting down himself.
"Well," said Cora, Derek's sister. "Someone's mother taught him manners."
"I guess?" Scott said, not sure what she meant by that.
"We can ease him in, Cora," Talia said. "Let him be for now."
The lamb roast had been carved, meat piled high on a platter, and there were potatoes and vegetables and red wine poured into tumblers. Stiles was further down the table, between Malia and Erica, the blonde who'd been in the Ravettes with Lydia. He looked up at Scott and nodded, and knowing he was all right, Scott turned to Allison.
"You have to tell me all about San Francisco," she said, smiling. "I've only ever sung with my family."
"On television!" Scott said.
Allison laughed. "But I've never been a part of a scene, and you have."
"Well," Scott said, "what do you want to know?"
Allison had been well trained by her mother and her aunt on how to talk to a man, and she'd been doing it one way or another since she'd first started singing with the family when she was six. She wasn't a precocious little girl in pigtails anymore, but the overall shape of the conversation remained the same: ask questions. Men liked to talk about themselves, Mom had always said, and if you let them they'll think you're charming.
Which, her Aunt Kate would add, was when they might let their guard down and tell you something they shouldn't have. Now you had the upper hand, and all you had to do was smile. But Allison stopped listening to Kate on the matter of men when she was twelve and ran into a newly-eighteen Derek Hale sneaking out of Kate's room one night when the two families were on tour together. When Kate said it should just be their secret, Allison kept it, but she also decided that maybe Kate didn't always show the best judgment.
Still, in unfamiliar social situations it was easier to fall back on training. Or would have been, except that Scott wouldn't let her. He kept asking her questions, and not about her famous family, either. Or not exactly.
"You and Kira came from Nashville!" Scott said. "So you're a country singer?"
"I don't think so, not really," Allison said. "Not like Tanya Tucker. And unless you're Loretta Lynn they aren't interested in a girl who writes her own songs. Though, the pop producers aren't either, at least according to Lydia and Erica. But Talia thinks the rock crowd is ready."
"There are some girls in bands in San Francisco," he said. "Writing songs, even. And if all your songs are as groovy as the one you were playing when we came in, then yeah."
"Are all your songs as groovy as the one you played for us?" she asked, smiling.
"Of course," he said, grinning.
Dinner was winding down when George hopped up from the table. "I nearly forgot! Someone is on television tonight!"
"But Laura's in England," Derek said.
"No, not Laura," George said, walking away down the hall and waving them all behind him. The others grabbed their glasses and followed, Scott sticking close to Allison.
"Who is Laura?" he whispered.
"Derek and Cora's older sister," Allison whispered back. "She's on a promo tour in England for her new solo record."
They filed into the smallish room where the Hales kept their color television set and a stereo with a turntable and a reel-to-reel deck. The walls were lined with shelves for records. After some messing with the antenna on Derek's part, the picture came in clear.
And Allison was very, very glad that she and Scott were standing toward the back of the room. Because that picture was of that goddamned donkey in coveralls backdrop at Hee-Haw.
"Oh my god," Allison said, burying her head in her hands.
"Tonight on Hee-Haw!" the announcer's voice blared from the tinny speakers. "Tanya Tucker! Charley Pride! And the Argent Family Singers!"
She remembered sitting on that scratchy fake hay bale, Kate opposite her, Dad and Gerard standing behind them, waving at the camera. She remembered that they'd put her hair in a giant bouffant flip that had taken nearly two hours of rollers and back-combing to achieve, not to mention so much AquaNet that the hair dresser warned everyone not to light their cigarette near her. She remembered the tacky feel of the layers and layers of frosty pink lipstick and black liquid eyeliner, and the brief debate about false eyelashes until it was determined that she shouldn't upstage Kate—not that she would, Kate being blonde. She remembered Dad, who'd stopped singing a few months prior, only agreeing to perform for Kate's sake. She remembered particularly that they'd taped the show the very day that Woodstock began, so while the Hales were singing their last concert in upstate New York, she was standing in a fake cornfield on a set in LA telling the worst corn pone jokes imaginable. She hoped that footage wasn't usable.
Aloud she said, "They had to put all the male audience members in cowboy hats because their hair was too long to look like real country fans. I guess they'd tried to find servicemen, even sent down to the naval base in San Diego, but ended up giving tickets away for free to people on the studio tour."
"You'd think they'd film in Nashville," Talia said.
The Grand Ol' Opry filmed in Nashville, because the Opry was real. Allison didn't live in Nashville for that long, but even she knew that Hee-Haw was condescending to the very people who might watch it.
Which meant it was right up Gerard's alley.
To their credit—or maybe because they knew Talia and George would take a dim view to anything mean—the others didn't tease her too badly.
"Actually, I love Tanya Tucker," Erica said.
But Scott was looking at Allison with a concerned expression, eyebrows furrowed. During the next commercial break he leaned a little closer and whispered, "We can go to another room until it's over if you want. Play our own music maybe?"
Allison smiled, because Scott had known her for all of five hours, and seemed to know exactly what to say. "No, I'll stick it out," she said. "I'm not ashamed. It's just ... not what I would have chosen for myself."
"Your hair's a lot different now," he said.
"Better if it's the hair you want to have," Scott said. "You seem more comfortable now than you do on that show."
"More myself," she replied.
The performance featured Kate, to lead into her upcoming solo record, and Allison was sad to know that it would probably be a very long time before she sang with her family again. It had only been a few weeks, but the little bit of independence she'd taken for herself here in Los Angeles still felt unreal, like Gerard was going to walk through the door any minute and take it all away from her.
The skits in the fake cornfield, on the other hand, were terrible.
The ordeal was over soon enough, and then everyone pitched in with clearing the table and washing the dishes before heading back to the living room for more music. They started with a few of the old folk classics that the Hales and Argents alike had grown up on, which even got Derek singing, not to mention Talia and George. Then they moved into Beatles songs just because they all knew them and it was fun to make up new harmonies, to figure out how all their voices might combine even though there were so many of them in the room. Cora and Kira kept breaking out into guitar solos, egging each other on, which was fun to see.
Talia and George retired an hour or so in, and after accepting Stiles and Scott's thanks, insisted that they should stay as late as they liked.
George looked over toward Derek and Braeden. "Boyd?" he asked.
"Absolutely," Derek said.
Braeden added, "I was going to call him tomorrow."
"Good, good," he said, and then to Scott, "Piano player. You'll love him."
Scott nodded, seemingly taking it all in stride. "Groovy."
As soon as the elder Hales left the house Cora said, "Okay, time for the Stones."
"Well, if it's the Stones you want," Stiles said, and grabbed the bongos to play the opening of "Sympathy for the Devil."
Derek went to the small upright piano in the corner. "I'll play, but I'm not singing," he said.
"C'mon Scotty," Stiles said. "You sing along in the car every time it comes on the radio."
Scott looked over at Allison, and she smiled at him. "Please?" she asked.
He sighed, though she was sure it was just a show for his friend, then began: please allow me to introduce myself …
Malia was already on her feet, dancing, while Cora got the upright bass from the corner near where Derek sat and quickly caught up. Soon they were all dancing, and Malia put a maraca in Allison's hand. It wasn't hard for the room to pitch in on the "woo woo!" backup. At the solo Cora shouted, "Take it, Kira!" and of course it was different than Keith Richard's solo—she had a twelve-string acoustic rather than an electric guitar, never mind that Kira always put her own spin on anything she played—but Allison could tell that Scott and Stiles were impressed, and she was proud of and happy for her friend.
When the verses were over and Kira took over the song, Allison pulled Scott toward her. They were dancing, together, in the middle of all these women singing "woo woo!" and dancing around them, and Allison suddenly understood something that Lydia and Erica had alluded to a few times: the power in getting a man to look at you because you wanted him to. And oh, she wanted him to; she certainly wanted to look at him, at all his compact werewolf muscle barely contained in his jeans and short-sleeved shirt, his hair curling past his collar, his mustache she wanted to kiss, and his kind, dark eyes that were such a contrast with the menace he'd had in his voice as he sang. Ordinarily she wouldn't have made such a display, either from concern of what Gerard would have to say about it or fear of looking like a fool if the man didn't want her. But if she hadn't been sure at dinner, she was now, just from the way he danced with her that he wanted her, too. She was glad she'd put on a dress instead of wearing her usual jeans.
They made their way through all of Beggars Banquet, trading off on the lead vocals (hearing what Erica did with "Street Fighting Man" gave Allison some ideas of her own) and after that finally called it a night. Kate would have told her she was being too obvious, walking Scott to his car, but Allison was enjoying being brazen. And anyway, Malia was coming outside, too, with Stiles. It was a beautiful night, just a little chilly, with a breeze that stirred their hair and made the skirt of her minidress float around her thighs.
Scott put his guitar in the back of the blue jeep and then turned to Allison, his back against the passenger door. "So, I guess I'll be coming up here," he said.
"Yeah, I guess you will," Allison said. "And I'll be here."
"Groovy," Scott said, nodding. He paused, staring at her, then continued: "Could I call you, sometime?"
"Please," she said. "You already have the number, after all."
"Yeah. And Derek has mine, so."
"Okay," Allison said, though she wasn't sure she was quite brazen enough to call a boy before he called her first.
"I have to go to my aunt's tomorrow for supper, but maybe we could go out next week? Have lunch or something? Maybe even see a French movie?"
She smiled. "I'd like that."
"Cool," Scott said. Then he surged forward, kissing her, one hand on her waist and the other in her hair, cupping her head so gently that she would easily have been able to back away if she wanted to.
Only, she didn't want to. And his mustache was as good for kissing as she'd hoped.
She felt a tap on her shoulder just as Scott broke off the kiss, and realized that when Malia was tapping her, Stiles was poking Scott from the driver's seat of the jeep.
"Yeah, so, we should go while I'm still awake enough to drive," he said.
"Oh, yeah," Scott said, and Allison backed up so he could climb into the car.
"Nice to meet you, Stiles," Allison said, leaning into the car slightly.
"You too," Stiles said, nodding, and she could tell that he was going to give his friend all kinds of grief on the ride back to West Hollywood. "Night, Malia!"
"Night, Stiles!" she replied, and they waved as the boys drove away, Derek standing near the gate to close it behind them. Allison wasn't sure when he'd come outside, but then, Derek had always tread lightly.
They turned back toward the house and Malia made kissing noises.
Allison giggled. "What about you?" she asked. "You and Stiles seemed pretty cozy."
"I like him," she said. "He's okay for a stranger. We have a lot in common. Plus he's queer, so he's safe."
"He told you that?' Allison asked, eyes wide.
"He didn't have to," she said. "He was staring at Derek all night."
Allison felt suddenly overwhelmed with good feeling, and put an arm around Malia's waist. "I'm so glad you're here," she said. "We missed you."
"I missed me, too," Malia replied, and put her arm around Allison.
Derek caught up with them just as they reached the door. "Hey, everything okay?" he asked, looking worried. "Stiles didn't—he didn't bother you, did he?"
"Not even a little," Malia said.
"I just don't want anyone taking advantage of you," Derek said.
Malia just smiled. "Cousin, trust me: you don't have to worry about Stiles bothering me." She let go of Allison and walked into the house.
"What was that supposed to mean?" Derek asked.
Allison reached up with her fingertip to smooth the crease between his eyes. "It's Malia," she said. "Who ever knows what she means?" She went inside then, too, knowing the others would all probably tease her all over again about kissing Scott, as of course Malia would have told them immediately. But she didn't mind that, not one bit.
Stiles usually had a lot to say about the girls Scott was interested in—mostly negative, and proven correct sooner or later—but on the drive back to West Hollywood he only made two jokes about dancing and harmony that were really about sex before saying, "She's a cool chick."
"You think so?" Scott asked, surprised.
"Yeah. They all seemed okay, so far anyway."
Scott grinned. "Even Lydia Martin?"
"Kinda standoffish, but she's so smart! Erica said Lydia got into Radcliffe but deferred to keep making music."
"Huh. And you think you could be in a band with a girl?"
"Wow, Kira is … her playing is the end. A zillion times better than Jackson ever was and way nicer. I dig her. I mean, not dig dig her. You know what I mean."
"Yeah, I know." Scott looked out the window; they were coming down out of the hills now, nearing Sunset. "She fits."
"If Derek's piano guy works out we'd just need a bass player."
"I was thinking," Scott said. "Watching Cora on that upright reminded me of jazz band in high school."
"Man, jazz band was so cool and so square at the same time," Stiles said, smiling. "You want to go back to playing bass?"
"Me and you would really be playing together then," Scott said. "That would be cool."
"Or we could be like The Doors and have the guy play the bass on the keyboards and you could just sing."
Scott briefly pictured himself jumping around the way Jim Morrison did and shuddered. "No, thank you," he said.
"Okay," Stiles said, and they were silent after that. Scott knew that even though Stiles had been on his side in the fights in the old band, he also wanted Scott to be more of a front man. And even in the twenty minutes of that first gig that Scott and Stiles had been at, Jackson was more charismatic, seemed to make himself sexually available to the entire room. Scott didn't think he needed to be like Jim Morrison or Roger Daltrey; the songs could speak for themselves. He'd just have to figure out that different way.
They were back in the apartment and undressing for bed when Stiles said, "Did you actually talk to anyone there other than Allison?"
Scott paused; it was hard to remember anyone other than Allison, that was true. "George, and Isaac. Cora was on the other side of me at dinner and I'm pretty sure we talked about something. And of course Kira while we were playing."
Stiles rolled his eyes.
"What? Did you talk to anyone other than Malia?"
"Yes! Erica said she and Lydia are shacked up and have been for a while. They've been singing a lot with Allison and Cora lately. Braeden doesn't say much; she mostly sits in the corner and watches everything happen, like Derek. Cora is really funny but a little mean—"
"Sounds like your type," Scott interrupted.
"— and is apparently a musical genius. But Malia, yeah. Malia's pretty groovy."
Scott's eyebrows went up. "Stiles."
"Don't worry, man," he said. "She knows where it's at."
"Because you told her?" Scott asked, surprised.
"I didn't have to," Stiles said. "She's not just a far out chick; she's actually a far out chick, dig?"
"Yeah," Scott said, because they'd known some people like that up in San Francisco, people who just kind of knew things you didn't tell them.
"Anyway, didn't you notice how much time she spent dancing in front of Kira?" Stiles shook his head. "You might have been talking to the only chick in that entire house who digs dudes. Well, except Mrs. Hale."
"What about Braeden?"
"What about Braeden?" Stiles asked, shrugging. "She's apparently not shacked up with Derek, at least."
"Really?" Scott asked, because he'd totally assumed.
"Yeah, they're just pals." Stiles slid into his bed. "Not that that affects me."
"Nope," Scott replied, pretending not to notice the little tell in his voice Stiles always got when he had a crush he thought was hopeless. "Nothing to do with you at all."
Scott called Allison on Monday. She couldn't talk for long—the Hales had only the one phone, in their office, and the other girls were waiting to go hiking or to the beach or something—but she sounded happy to hear from him, and they made plans for lunch and a movie on Tuesday. Then he wrote a dumb poem about her to get it out of his system so he wouldn't be a complete drip when he saw her.
Tuesday he dropped off Stiles at the studio, where his session was scheduled until at least five if not later, and then went up to Laurel Canyon to get Allison. Though when he saw her, he wasn't sure that songwriting plan had actually worked. His palms were sweaty, as if he were a damn teenager instead of a twenty-one year old man.
Then she smiled, and suddenly it was easy. She was wearing a little dress like she had been the night they met, and her hair was straight and long and shiny. He couldn't help but give her a peck on the cheek as he helped her into the car. They went to lunch and talked about music the entire time—how she grew up on the road and met all these famous singers, and the folk scene which Scott didn't know much about. He felt like an amateur in comparison and a little shy to talk about the few years he and Stiles had spent playing around San Francisco, but she asked lots of questions and seemed interested so maybe it was okay.
They decided to ditch the movie and after running back to his place for his and Stiles's guitars they went to the beach in Santa Monica. He and Allison sat on top of one of the picnic tables near the parking lot and played songs for each other, and now Scott felt his feet under him again. Allison was newer to songwriting than he was, and just as eager for feedback, and he thought he helped her as much as she helped him. Hoped so, anyway.
The date ran a little longer than Scott expected so he just brought Allison along to pick up Stiles at the studio; he had a parking pass on the jeep so the guard was going to just let them through until he saw who was in the car.
"Well, is that little Allison Argent?" he asked in a pronounced Scottish brogue.
She laughed. "I wondered if you'd recognize me, Mr. McDonnough."
"You're a grown up lady now; you call me Mac like everyone else."
"Mac, then. I would have thought you would have retired by now!"
"No, gotta keep busy. Well get out, get out, let me look at you!"
Allison whispered, "It'll just be a minute. He's a sweetheart, really." She got out and gave Mac a hug.
"I was sorry to hear about your mother, real sorry I was. She was a tough woman but always fair and kind to a working man."
"Thank you, Mac. You sent such a lovely card; it meant a lot."
He nodded. "So you're here on your own?"
"Staying up in Laurel Canyon with the Hales—you remember them."
"I do, I do. And is this your young man?"
So Allison wouldn't have to answer, Scott leaned out of the car and stretched out his hand. "Scott McCall," he said.
Mac shook his hand, then peered at him. "Have to say, you don't look Scottish."
"My dad is, way back somewhere, but Mom is Mexican-American."
"Ah, that explains it," Mac said, nodding. "He's got quite a firm grip, too. Wolf?"
"Good, then you can keep those marauders up in the hills away from the young lady."
"Mac!" Allison protested.
"You can count on me," Scott said.
"Now, what brings you here. Recording?"
Allison shook her head. "Our friend Stiles is playing a session in one of the studios."
"Ah, the young drummer, yes, now I recognize this vehicle. Straight back, 3B, can't miss it."
"Thanks, Mac," Allison said, giving him a peck on the cheek and getting back into the car.
As they drove through the studio complex Allison said, "Sorry about that. It doesn't happen very often, and then mostly with industry people like Mac. Fans never recognize me without the rest of my family. I hope you didn't mind."
"Not at all," he said, because he didn't. He thought it was kind of nice, that people remembered Allison fondly. "Though I admit I'm a little jealous that he got a kiss and I haven't yet." He pulled into a parking spot in front of studio 3B.
"Jealous of an elderly guard?" Allison asked, laughing.
Scott shrugged. "When it's about kisses from you, I guess I am!"
"Well," Allison said, cocking her head, "I guess I should do something about that." She leaned in and kissed him.
He was surprised at first—Scott had only meant to tease her, to let her know that he wanted to kiss her even if he was being patient, because girls liked to be reminded. But he didn't mind that she was kissing him. He put an arm around her and pulled her as close as the gear shift would allow.
There was a knock on the car door—Stiles, of course, whom Scott had forgotten all about. "Sorry to interrupt."
Scott got out so Stiles could climb into the back seat, next to the guitars.
"Sorry, Stiles," Allison said, though she didn't sound particularly sorry. "How was the session?"
"It was all right. Davy Jones is a pro, so there wasn't a lot of wasted time." He blinked. "Okay if we keep the radio off, though?"
"Fine by us," Scott said, and they drove up to Laurel Canyon in silence, though Scott and Allison kept sneaking glances at each other.
When they pulled into the driveway and piled out of the car, Derek was waiting for them. "Boyd's around tomorrow, if that's good."
Stiles said, "They don't need me again until Friday."
"Good for us, then," Scott said.
"Come up around two," Derek said. "Maybe we can get something going with the four of you before supper."
"I'll bring my kit, then," Stiles said.
Derek nodded, and Scott thought he was going back inside when he said, "Stiles, can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Okay," Stiles said, shrugging at Scott, and he went into the house with Derek.
Allison turned to Scott. "I had a really fantastic time," she said.
"Me too," Scott replied. "We'll have to do it again."
"Well, I'll see you tomorrow at dinner." She smiled.
"Yeah, but I meant, just us."
"Just us would be groovy," she agreed, so he gave her another kiss.
He walked her into the house, and saw that Derek and Stiles were standing in the office, just inside the door.
"My intentions?" Stiles was asking. "Is this nineteen thirty-five? Are you her dad or something?"
Scott looked at Allison, who whispered, "Malia."
"No," Derek said, "but she's in a very vulnerable place and we're all looking out for her."
"I know she's vulnerable. That's what we talked about."
"What do you mean?"
Stiles sighed, and ran a hand through his hair, turning slightly, and must have seen Scott and Allison out of the corner of his eye because he beckoned them into the room.
"Stiles, I—" Derek began.
"Anything you want to say to me, you can say in front of Scott," Stiles said. "So, when my mom died, my dad was a deputy then, and I worried about him. Worried so much I started having these attacks, like soldiers with battle fatigue. It was too much for him to handle alone so he had to send me away for a summer. To a mental hospital."
Scott remembered that summer, remembered sending him letters, and almost crying the first time he visited until Stiles said he felt safer there, and it was okay. He took Allison's hand.
"Oh," Derek replied, and the tension in his body released.
"On the bright side, the whole history of madness thing means I can't be drafted." He smiled briefly, then continued. "But Malia and I were talking about our time in the loony bin, because it's something we have in common. Well, aside from playing the drums."
"She talked to you about that?" Derek asked. "That's groovy. She rarely mentions playing music anymore."
"Well," Stiles said, surprised. "Yeah, she did. Anyway, I know very well how vulnerable she is right now. It's cool that you're worried. I mean, it's cool that she has people around to worry about her."
"I'm glad you understand," Derek said.
Stiles straightened his posture, aligning his shoulders. "And you should know, since you'll probably find out eventually, and we'll be working together, but I'm queer. So I wouldn't be up to anything with Malia anyway."
"Oh," Derek said again, surprised this time, and then glanced at Allison. "Um, so am I."
"Wow," Stiles said. "Well, that's cool, then."
"Yeah." Derek was nodding, and not really looking at Stiles, and Scott felt a weird vibe in the room.
"So," Scott said, "we should probably get going."
"Yeah, yeah," Stiles said, sounding relieved. "Get going."
"I'll see you tomorrow," Allison said, and gave Scott a quick kiss on the lips that sent him back out to the jeep pretty much walking on air.
"So that was unexpected," Stiles said as they drove away. "Not you and Allison, I mean, obviously you're going to have dozens of little singing babies, but Derek."
"You think we're going to have babies?" Scott asked.
"Of course you are," Stiles said.
Scott had to smile at that. He'd been a little worried that he was getting too heavy about this girl too fast, but if someone else saw it too, then at least it wasn't just in his own head. He thought about her kissing him in the jeep, before Stiles interrupted them, and then of the strange conversation with Derek in the office at the Hale house. Stiles didn't just go around telling people about his time in the hospital; for whatever reason he'd obviously decided he trusted Derek, at least with something about himself.
Aloud he said, "Well, if Derek's queer, then …"
"Then he's unattainable in an entirely new way," Stiles said sharply. "Just like Lydia, if I dug chicks. You can't get with people who've been pinned up on your bedroom wall."
"I'm sure Allison was on some people's bedroom walls," Scott said.
"Yeah, but she wasn't on yours," Stiles replied.
They were quiet for a bit, and then Scott said, "At least you have a new friend. That's cool."
"Yeah," Stiles said. "You're great and all, but now that you've got an old lady, I could use some friends."
"Shut up, she's not my old lady," Scott said.
"Not yet," Stiles replied, "but she will be."
Wednesday morning Allison thought she probably should try to make herself scarce. After all, she'd been on only her first real date with Scott the day before, and even her mother had said that she shouldn't make herself too available to a man or he'd take her for granted. But he was coming to her house, and she didn't want to have to leave every time he came up there for music reasons. She had more right to be there than he did, after all.
She wandered down to the kitchen and saw Cora at the table watching Isaac making a large pan of scrambled eggs. "Want some?" he asked.
"Please," she said, because he was the only American she'd ever met who could make eggs that tasted like her grandmother's. "I could do the toast, or something?"
"It's cool," he said, waving her to sit down.
Cora stage-whispered, "He has a system."
Erica came in then with the paper, emblazoned with the headline "Chicago Eight Trial Begins Today."
"Do I want to read that?" Cora asked.
"Nope!" Erica said, taking a section out of the paper and flipping immediately to the funny pages. "My motto is, read Peanuts instead."
But Allison couldn't take her eyes away from the headline, couldn't help but wonder what Gerard was saying about that, back in Nashville. Nothing sympathetic, she was sure. She still couldn't quite get her mind around how casually left-wing the Hales were, and yet how happily they'd taken her in.
"I heard the Moratorium is definitely on," Isaac said. "They're gathering at UCLA."
"Mom will want to go sing old protest songs," Cora said.
"What's a moratorium?" Allison asked. "I mean, I know what one is, but—"
"Anti-war protests all across the country on October 15th," Erica said, not taking her eyes from the funny pages. "Work stoppages or sick-outs or whatever, the whole nine yards."
"You don't have to come," Cora said. "If it's not your bag."
"No, I'd want to," Allison said, seeing Lydia walk in out of the corner of her eye. "If people are going then I'd like to go. I've never been to one."
Lydia sat next to Erica and commandeered her coffee. "First protest is the Moratorium?" she asked. "That's like having your first civil rights demonstration be the March on Washington."
"Really?" Erica asked.
"Gerard liked Dr. King until, as he put it, he 'went radical.' Cora was there, too, but it probably wasn't her first one."
"You'd have to ask Derek," she said. "I was a kid and Mom and Dad didn't like to make a big deal out of singing with black people. We sang at a lot of rallies but I'm not sure which of them count as actual demonstrations."
"Breakfast," Isaac said, setting the plates of eggs and toast in front of them. They were silent for a bit, eating, and then Cora spoke again.
"So I was thinking, while Derek's band gets their groove on in the music room, maybe we should skip out and go out into the woods? There's a clearing not far behind the big house. We can do our own thing."
"I love it out there," Erica said.
"I could make you a picnic lunch," Isaac said.
"Thanks, baby," Cora said. "Make enough for five, in case Malia wants to come?"
Allison nodded. "Sounds good to me," she said, though inside the nerves were coming. Cora was an old friend, yes, but she realized that Kira would be inside with her new band. Not that Allison and Kira's musical styles had ever meshed particularly well—that's why they weren't in their own band together, after all—but she'd grown used to the familiar face. Lydia and Erica were cool, but they were also new. The Argents didn't do much that was new: traditional folk songs, the same backing band for years. Allison wasn't used to so much change, and while she was trying, she still got nervous.
Well, at least it solved the problem of seeing Scott again, so soon.
"Babe?" Erica asked, and Allison realized that Lydia hadn't answered.
"As long as we can bring something to sit on," she said. "After all, I'm not a wolf."
"Neither am I," Allison said.
"You should bring your crossbow," Cora said. "If you get something Isaac can make it for dinner."
"Ha ha," Allison replied.
Malia decided to stay indoors and watch the new band, so the four of them headed out a little bit before Scott, Stiles and Boyd were expected. Isaac carried the hamper and the blankets, disregarding Cora's protests that she and Erica could have done so.
"It's my job," he said. "And you have two guitars. I can be helpful without being gentlemanly, Cora."
In the clearing, though, it was just the four of them.
"Let's go around and do a song each until we run out," Cora said. "Just to see where we are. We can start with Allison's Woodstock song since we all know that by now."
So Allison started, singing the verse, and at the chorus Erica and Lydia joined in with the harmonies they'd been singing a few nights ago. But this time Cora came in over the top, and when all four voices were singing at once—we've got to get ourselves back to the garden—the hairs on the back of Allison's neck stood up.
"Did we just do that?" Erica asked when the song ended.
"Yep," Cora said, "and now we're going to do it on my song."
The rest of the songs didn't come as easy as that one—it took them forever to figure out what to do with Lydia's song about cutting her hair and letting her freak flag fly before they just left it as a solo lead—and there were more than a few skirmishes. But there was also wine in the picnic basket, and Erica passed a joint around after lunch, which kept them calm enough to get through eight songs in some form or another—two each, which was more balanced than Allison had expected, especially given Lydia's earlier reluctance to share her songs. She was also surprised at first at how pop-oriented Erica's songs were, before she remembered that however much Erica lived in the counterculture now, she'd been a pop star not two years earlier.
In the evening Talia came to get them, with Isaac in tow. "I hate to interrupt these lovely sounds," she said, "but if you come in maybe the boys and Kira will stop playing and come to dinner, too. I don't want to see Isaac's work spoiled; wouldn't you agree?"
When they came inside the band was still going full throttle in the music room, so they caught most of a song about not wanting another woman. They were all in a corner near the piano that Boyd was playing, with Scott on the stand-up bass and Kira on a stool picking out the beginnings of a solo. Derek was standing behind Stiles's kit, nodding his head in time to the music, while Braeden and Malia sat on the couch, watching. Scott smiled when he caught Allison's eye, and she smiled right back.
So much for being unavailable. She clapped along with the others when they were done.
"All right," Talia said, "I'll let the women play one song, since they heard one of yours, and then it's time for dinner."
"Yes, ma'am," Cora said, getting her guitar back out of its case. "How about that one of Erica's—not the one about the house, the other one?"
"Good choice," Lydia said, nodding, because it was—the most finished harmonies, and all four of them sang for nearly the entire song.
Allison got out her guitar as well, and then said, "Hey Malia, could you give us some bongos on this one? It needs more of a drive than our guitars."
"Yeah, we missed you today," Erica said, with her big grin.
Malia shrugged, but she was smiling just a little. "I guess," she said, grabbing the bongos from a nearby table.
Erica counted them off, and she and Lydia doubled on rhythm while Allison played a proto bass line; Cora would come in with fills as they went along. one morning I woke up and I knew you were really gone
Malia had only heard the song a time or two before, but she played along as though she'd been working with them out in the woods, too.
Then Erica held up her hand and they all stopped playing, just their four voices now: carry on, love is coming, love is coming to us all.
"That's as far as we have now," Erica said, giggling a little in the sudden silence, which was immediately replaced with applause from the others.
"Far out," Braeden said. "Don't hear a blend like that too often. Even the Ravettes didn't sound that good, no offense."
"None taken," Lydia said, though she sounded like it was a close thing. "My heart's more in this one."
Everyone packed up then, having tested Talia's patience long enough. Scott came up to Allison, still smiling.
"Sounds amazing, seriously," he said.
"So do you," Allison said, nodding. "Fun to hear Kira let loose like that."
"Yeah, she's better than anyone I've ever played with, definitely," he agreed.
"Groovy," Allison said, nodding.
"Oh and that song we were playing is Stiles's song," he said. "In case you were wondering."
Allison had to laugh then, that he was worried she might think he didn't need another woman. "It's a good song."
"Yeah," he said. Then he cleared his throat and added, "I, um, I like your flowers."
"Oh!" she said, reaching up to her head because she'd forgotten about the flower crowns Erica had woven while they were singing. She was suddenly aware of her old jeans with holes in the knees and her peasant shirt; she was probably covered in whatever had fallen from the trees above them. She didn't even have any mascara on.
"No, keep them," he said. "Sorry, I can—I mean, I guess we'll be together sort of a lot? I can cool it."
Allison's stomach twisted again, and she realized that was the opposite of what she wanted. After all, she wasn't in his band. "No, it's cool."
"Yeah?" Scott asked, his eyes lighting up. "Promise you'll tell me if it gets too heavy for you?"
"Promise," Allison said.
"Groovy," Scott replied, and they followed the others into the dining room.
Talia very kindly invited Scott up for the full moon the next night, which seemed cooler than hanging out with strange wolves and humans on the beach as he'd done since they'd arrived in LA. There were plenty of humans and others at the house for Stiles to hang with, too, provided he got over his habit of losing his cool whenever Lydia was around.
"They should be friends," Allison said.
Erica nodded. "They actually have a lot in common."
"Really?" Scott asked, because he couldn't imagine.
"I have an idea," Kira said. "Leave it to me."
Scott hadn't been in the woods for a full moon in quite a while, nor been with such a large pack. It wasn't his pack, though he respected Talia as his elder, for her experience, and certainly wasn't trying to challenge. And with so many Hales, plus Erica and Boyd and Isaac, it felt homey without being stifling. He could see why the three non-Hale wolves had attached themselves. For the first time he thought he wouldn't mind having a pack of his own someday, if it could be like this.
And sure enough, when they were all back in the house at moonset, Stiles and Lydia were sitting together in a corner talking intensely.
"Good," Malia said, nodding, and made a beeline for Kira, who was sitting in front of the fireplace.
Allison came up behind Scott and put her chin on his shoulder. "Kira asked about the Moratorium, and everyone started talking about politics, and before long Stiles and Lydia were debating Mattachine and the Gay Liberation Front and what really happened at that bar in Greenwich Village back in June."
Scott nodded, pulling Allison's arms around his waist. "He has a lot of things to say about that. I guess she did too."
"Sometimes when people have been famous since they were young it takes a little push for them to see not famous people as more than just fans," Allison said. "And the other way around too, I suppose."
"What about me?" Scott asked, turning in her arms. "I mean, for you?"
"The folk scene isn't like the pop scene," Allison said. "Or wasn't, anyway. We weren't on television all the time, or checking into hotels under assumed names. A lot of the time we slept in people's rec rooms and sang in Odd Fellow's Halls and sold records out of the back of our station wagon. Gerard has a lot of faults, believe me, but he didn't have much time for acting like people were lucky to know us."
"I don't know," Scott said. "I'm pretty lucky to know you."
Allison laughed, teeth flashing white, and something in Scott's insides flipped upside down. "I'm lucky to know you, too," she said, and kissed him.
"Well!" Erica said, walking into the room with Derek, and both of their eyes were on Stiles and Lydia. "Right on, Kira."
"Thanks!" Kira said.
"They're friends now or something?" Derek asked, confused.
Erica rolled her eyes. "Honest to God, Derek," she said, taking his hand and hauling him over to the corner with her, where she pushed him down on the couch next to Stiles while she fit herself into the overstuffed armchair along with Lydia.
Allison took up Scott's attention after that—cuddling and necking were great things to do after the moon, some humanity reminders. The elder Hales were in their house and Cora and Isaac had already disappeared someplace.
"We could go up to my room for a little bit," Allison said.
"I'll probably fall asleep on you," Scott admitted.
She smiled. "I know," she said. "That's why I'm inviting you up."
"Oh!" he replied, getting it. He looked around for Stiles, instinct by now, but then, Stiles was his pack. He was still talking to Lydia, Erica having pulled her girlfriend onto her lap to cuddle her without getting in the way of her conversation. Derek was still sitting next to Stiles, but had given into his instinct and leaned into him. And Stiles?
Stiles was absent-mindedly running his hand through Derek's hair. For all that they'd cuddled after Scott's full moons Stiles had never done that, and Scott was very sure that making him fully aware of what he was up to would lead nowhere good. But he felt okay leaving Stiles if only for a little while.
"Okay," Scott said. "Let's go."
They lay on her bed fully clothed, and while Scott vaguely remembered some action, he was very sure that he ended up face down in the pillow maybe faster than he'd thought. But she was still there when he woke up, and he didn't seem to have drooled into her hair or anything.
"Hey," she said, smiling. "Lunch?"
He had that homey feeling again, a flash of what it might be like if Allison were pack, too, and he liked it. "Yeah," he said. "Lunch sounds groovy."
Allison didn't see Scott for a day or so after the full moon, though they talked a couple of times on the phone. She still couldn't quite believe that she'd brought him back up to her room, but she was getting used to the idea that the rules she'd been taught just didn't apply to Scott.
Besides, she liked that the pillowcase still smelled faintly of him.
Instead, she was listening to some records and thinking about how to make her sound more rock and less folk. She was inspired by how bluesy Lydia's music was becoming, and wondered if some of her songs would benefit from being a little darker and more electrified. But she found herself drawn to listen to jazz, for some reason she didn't yet fully understand.
Lydia always was the one to find Allison on the floor of the TV room surrounded by records. She said nothing, just picked up the other set of headphones and they sat together listening to Coltrane until the record ended.
"Coltrane has interesting ideas about chord progressions," Lydia said.
Allison blinked at her.
"I listen to records too, you know," she replied. "And I read. Music theory, things like that."
"A week ago you hadn't played me any of your songs yet," Allison pointed out.
"Well," Lydia said, tossing back her hair, "now I have."
"Kira's off with her band," Allison said to change the subject, "but where are the others?"
"Malia is in the garden with her aunt. Cora and Erica went out to the clearing, I think, to work out some guitar bits of Erica's."
Allison smiled. "So you came to find me?"
"Not like that," Lydia said, though she was smiling. "Specifically. Since you asked, I have been working on something new I wanted you to hear. I'd been thinking about the conversation from the other night."
"Quite a conversation," Allison said.
"There might be … a bit more to Stiles than I originally thought," Lydia allowed. "Anyway, Erica liked it but she was worried that its origins weren't quite hidden enough, and I'd rather bring it to you than to Cora. At least, at this stage."
She worked to keep her face neutral, because she knew that Lydia didn't want her pity or to hear her concern, but her heart hurt to think that Lydia would have to hide anything about herself, particularly who she loved. Instead she asked, "Have you always played your songs for Erica first?"
"I'm sure there's an instance where I haven't, but I can't think of one," Lydia replied. "Why?"
"I don't know," Allison said, shrugging. "It doesn't seem too … close? Working together and being together? You're both so independent-minded."
"Well, we always have worked together," Lydia pointed out. "We also go do our own thing and then come back together later. Sometimes she wants my help with her lyrics, and sometimes she has ideas about the music. She's been playing guitar and piano longer than I have."
Allison wondered if that was why Lydia hesitated to play her songs for Cora, waited until they were finished. Cora did sometimes have very definite ideas of how things should sound.
Lydia continued: "Contrary to what men seem to think, women aren't nearly as possessive in my experience. Back in '67 I dated a boy in San Francisco for a few months, a guitarist in a local band, but he was always a little jealous and unhappy that I was more popular. That's what you have to watch out for, I think. If Erica and I work together, we share the success."
"I see," she replied, biting her lip.
But Lydia was still speaking. "That said, Scott doesn't seem the type, even if he's an alpha."
"No, he doesn't," Allison replied, and she had to smile at that. "So, your song?"
"Come out to the piano and I'll play it for you," she said.
Allison spent much of the rest of the day with Lydia, working on her songs, while the echoes of A Love Supreme still floated around in the back of her mind. Contrary to Erica's worries, Lydia's lyrics were opaque enough to mean any movement—anti-war, women, civil rights. Cora and Erica came back from wherever they'd been around dinnertime, as did Kira from her practice session with her band and Derek and Braeden from whatever they were working on in the back bungalow.
After dinner Allison went into the office to call Dad. She was vague about Scott, because it was still very new, but it was easy to talk about playing out in the woods with Lydia, Erica and Cora, or the full moon, or all the music she was listening to. About himself, Dad would only say that he was fine, but that he would be leaving Nashville as soon as Kate's record was finished.
"I'll come see you first," he said. "Maybe for Thanksgiving. Talia's been hinting."
By the time she was off the phone everyone else had retreated to private corners of the house to work on their own things, so she headed up to her room. Allison could hear Erica in the music room on the piano, still messing around with that song she'd written about the little beach house she and Lydia had shared for a while. So she was surprised to hear a tap at her bedroom door.
Kira peeked her head in. "You're not busy?" she asked.
Allison grinned. "Not too busy to hear about your day," she said, setting aside her writing notebook.
Kira flopped down on the bed next to her. "I'm a guitar player now," she said.
"How was practice? Where were you?"
"At their landlady's place," she said, shrugging. "She has a piano, so Stiles just had to move his kit downstairs. She made us tea and stood in the corner snapping her fingers and dancing."
"She sounds like a character."
"It's like having a really with-it grandma," Kira said. "She used to be a movie actress, apparently. It's only for a few more days. Plus, Scott said he wants the band to play my songs, too."
"That's super," Allison said. "You've been writing; I'm sure there's something you'd want to give him."
"Well," she said, and her eyes widened. "I have been sort of working on something." She pulled a sheet of paper out of her pocket, but didn't hand it to Allison right away. "It's—kind of a love song? Or maybe a crush song? I wouldn't want to sing it myself but Scott could."
"Scott's used to changing the hims to hers on Stiles's songs," Allison said, "so I'm sure he wouldn't mind working with you on that." At the same time she was trying to think of who Kira could have a crush on. She'd only just met Boyd, and she knew about Derek and Stiles. Isaac was so clearly in Cora's pocket that it seemed futile. But then, maybe Kira's crush was one of those tragic impossible things? That was what a crush meant, after all, and Kira did look guilty and uncomfortable. Allison put on her most comforting smile.
"Actually," Kira said, slowly unfolding the paper, "he wouldn't have to." She slid it across the bed.
A girl. Well, that narrowed it down.
When Allison looked up Kira was biting her lip. "Malia?" she asked.
"I guess I've had crushes before but I thought it was just thinking some girl was cool, you dig?" Kira said. "But Malia. She's just—she's not like anyone else I've ever known."
"She's something else," Allison agreed.
"And I know she gets upset sometimes, and she's had a hard time recently, but she also digs all of these other things, deeper things. She really gets it. Even when she's upset, it's cool. Or, I mean, I can be cool. I have been so far, anyway." Kira paused, then looked right at Allison. "Is it cool? Lydia and Erica, sure, but they aren't your close friends—"
"Derek is," Allison said. "I might need a little bit to get used to it, but yes. It's cool."
Kira sighed, and looked relieved. "Groovy," she said. "Maybe nothing will happen at all. I don't know how she feels. She might just think I'm cool, you know?"
"Well, she'll know how you feel after Scott sings this song," Allison said. "No one who knew you wouldn't know that you wrote it, and Scott wouldn't take credit for it anyway, even if he was singing it."
"Then she'll know," Kira said. "Maybe that's better. I can be cool."
"Of course you can. And now you have a band to sing your song. That's groovy."
"It is. You sounded pretty groovy the other day yourself."
"It's been good," Allison said. "Actually, maybe you could help me? Other than Cora you're the only one who would get this and I'm not sure how well she would."
Allison flipped open her writing notebook. "Well, I've been working on this song about—well, it's about Aunt Kate, to be honest." She showed the page, full of cross-outs and false starts, to Kira.
She read for a bit, then said, "Is this what you're humming now?"
"Am I?" Allison asked, not having noticed. "Probably?"
"It's very raw," Kira said. "So sad and then angry."
"I know," Allison said. "I can't—I keep tearing up. It's ridiculous."
Kira cocked her head. "Maybe if you made it about something else? Like, breaking up with some guy? Disguise it a little?"
"Hmm," Allison said, looking at her notebook again and thinking of Lydia's song, how hiding the true subject didn't water it down at all, but made it more universal. "I guess these parts could be about romance, come to think of it."
"I like how it changes, these different moods, but related. You should change the music, too—like a suite? Like Bach or Debussy."
"Or Coltrane," Allison said, agreeing, and realizing now why she'd wanted to listen to A Love Supreme that morning, why it wouldn't leave her head. "That's exactly it. Thanks!"
"Glad to help," she said. "After all, you're the one who brought me out to LA."
Allison shrugged. "I'm not sure I would have been brave enough to come out here on my own," she said. "I'm glad I didn't have to find out."
Derek said he'd have a place for them to practice in a few days, but in the meantime they had to hustle. Downstairs with their landlady was too weird to do again, and Scott didn't like to kick the women out of the Hale music room. Then Boyd found out that the studio he was playing a session in the next afternoon would be empty that evening, the band who'd booked it having canceled at the last minute. Not that they'd be recording anything; it was just cool to have a space to play. The peaceful vibe Scott had been grooving on since the full moon bled into practice, which was weird since Stiles and Kira hadn't even been out in the woods that night.
"Let's start with Stiles's song," Scott said. "That sounded pretty good the other day."
"It'll be better on an organ," Boyd said.
Kira started them off, her riff sounding more polished, and Scott had the words changed up and fitting the melody pretty good. so you found another man, well that suits me just fine, I don't want another woman wasting my precious time. The organ did work better than the piano had, and Kira and Stiles chiming in on the chorus was kind of perfect. Scott didn't have the bass part entirely where he wanted it but that was cool; hitting a groove with Stiles was more important and after a few times through he was getting it anyway.
"You guys kinda sing like the Ravettes," Boyd said, pointing to Kira and Stiles.
"The Beatles did Shirelles covers," Kira pointed out.
"It's cool, man," Boyd said. "Just didn't expect the pep since the song is kinda bitter."
Then they were all looking at Scott, who blinked. "I think it works," he said. "Contrast."
Boyd nodded. "I can get with that," he said. "We all know Stiles doesn't mean it anyway."
"About the dude this is written about, I do," Stiles said, and Scott nodded.
"Naw, man, that dude was clearly a drag," Boyd said. "But you don't want another one?" He raised an eyebrow, and Kira started giggling.
Scott laughed, too; it was refreshing to be around someone who could call Stiles out on his ridiculousness without being an asshole about it. He'd liked Boyd in wolf form, too. Scott had never had a lot of friends who were werewolves but maybe you needed to spend a full moon with a fellow wolf to really bond with them.
Stiles was sputtering, so to change the subject Scott said, "Let's do 'Alone Again.'"
"Or," Kira said.
"Or what?" Scott asked.
"Wasn't that the name of the song?" She showed him the sheet music on which he'd scribbled some thoughts on the opening for her to think about. "'Alone Again Or'?"
She was right; he'd made a circle or something that did kind of look like "or."
"It's cooler," Stiles said.
"Yup," Boyd agreed.
"Okay," Scott said. "'Alone Again Or.'"
"Speaking of songs people don't mean," Boyd said, smiling to himself, but Kira started playing before Scott could reply to that.
Boyd wasn't wrong, though it wasn't just Allison that meant Scott wasn't so alone anymore. Scott had written the song when he was first in LA, with no band and no real friends other than Stiles, in a fit of self-pity one night when Stiles had a late session. Now he had a girl, sure, but he also had a real alliance with a pack and a bunch of new friends—and so did Stiles, which Scott was excited about—but also, maybe, he had a band. Even though the song was only about a month old, the guy who wrote those lyrics seemed very far away.
An hour or so later Braeden popped her head in, a large square brown paper envelope in her hands. "Guess what I have," she said.
"You got it?" Boyd asked.
Stiles asked, "Got what?"
But Braeden paid him no mind. "Yep," she said, "and we have to get this up to Laurel Canyon since it's thanks to George Hale that we got it early."
"Then we gotta split," Boyd said, immediately packing up.
"Wait, wait, what is that?" Scott asked.
Braeden let the door close behind her and walked closer to the band before stage-whispering, "Abbey Road!"
"Holy shit," Stiles said.
Scott couldn't think of anything to say. He and Stiles could see the already infamous billboard on Sunset, with the four Beatles walking along a crosswalk, from their living room window. The album had been released in England but wasn't going to be in American stores for another few days, so to get to listen to it early was a real treat. Before he'd even really thought about it Scott had packed up his guitar, and the others were ready to go as well.
Even as they left he was trying not to think about the record too much. He wanted to be able to listen it without a ton of expectations. Kira came in the jeep with Scott and Stiles and they were silent, not even the radio on, until they got up to the Hale compound where George was waiting outside for them.
"Well!" he said, grinning. "Won't we have a time! No substances for the first listen, I think. See what sort of trip those boys have in mind for us first."
Everyone else was in the music room waiting for them—or really, waiting for Braeden's precious parcel. Isaac gave them sodas, and around the room were big wooden bowls filled with popcorn, as if they were getting ready to watch The Wizard of Oz on TV instead of listening to a new rock album. Allison was sitting on the couch; seeing Scott, she smiled and picked up the pillow next to her.
"Groovy," he said, settling in against the arm and pulling her close for a kiss.
Malia, who'd spread big cushions on the floor, said, "Kira and Stiles should sit with me." Which they did, though Scott couldn't help noticing that Stiles took the cushion that put his back against Derek's chair.
"Settled in?" Talia asked, the record in her hands. "All right then."
Scott felt Allison shift in his arms, getting comfortable leaning against him. He closed his eyes and between one breath and the next, the music started, a serious groove, and he could sense the room settling into it. He wasn't sure if it was just that he was holding Allison and had been thinking about her so much lately, but nearly all the songs felt like being with her. (Well, maybe not the one with some weirdo hitting people with a hammer.) After that was a very long John song that was so directly about sex that Scott felt a little shy to be listening to it in a room full of people, and was frankly surprised that Lydia and Erica, who shared the couch with them, weren't just making out in front of everyone. Talia might have felt the same; she didn't make eye contact with anyone other than George when she got up to flip the record over.
The sleeve was making its way around the room, and when it got to Scott he didn't bother with the front but immediately flipped it over. Ten songs on the second side of a single album? He wondered how that would work out. George's cheerful song about the sun turned to some trippy thing from John and then Paul and his piano, normal enough. But after that the songs started coming faster, not really ending before the next one had started, musical ideas piling on top of each other. He sat up a little straighter, especially when that piano song of Paul's came back again.
and in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make
They all sat there stunned, squashed flat by all that music, when there was a clang from the record player and a short little song about Paul loving the queen or something.
Talia stood up and looked at the turntable. "Well, that was a little surprise," she said. "Start again? Take a moment?"
Malia answered for them, in a sense, by turning and pouncing on Stiles. "They gave Ringo a solo!"
"I know!" Stiles said. "Finally!"
Erica sighed, watching them. "I forgot how much I love drummers."
"So easily pleased," Lydia added.
They did take a quick break then, Scott heading to the kitchen to help Isaac bring in more beverages, but he couldn't stop thinking about what Malia had said about that drum solo. It had been followed by what sounded to Scott like George, John and Paul trading guitar licks. The Beatles didn't have a charismatic front man; they didn't even really have one leader. And there were three songwriters in the band.
Scott realized, suddenly, that Jackson was full of shit. Scott could lead his band any way he chose, and how he chose was whatever made everyone's songs sound the best. When he thought about it that way, it was easy—so easy he wasn't sure what he'd been so worried about. He was the strongest singer, sure, and he had the best sense of how to arrange the songs, but he also wasn't going to make Stiles wait until their tenth album or whatever to have a drum solo, either.
He returned to the music room with some six-packs of beer straight out of the fridge and started handing out the chilled bottles. Stiles and Malia were kneeling at the coffee table rolling joints, so clearly the second time around was going to be a more enhanced listening experience. When Scott got back to the couch Allison climbed into his lap and kissed him, more passionately than he was quite ready for, though he rose to the occasion.
"What was that for?" he asked.
"The music," she said, grinning. "It just got to me."
"Far out," Scott replied. "I was gonna buy it anyway, but now!"
"Oh my god," Cora said. "Please don't have sex on our couch in front of my parents."
Scott could feel himself flushing. They hadn't had sex yet; the only time they'd shared a bed was after the full moon and they'd just slept. And actually, when he thought about it, they'd met not much more than a week ago. It just felt like a lot longer.
"It's cool," Allison said, sliding off Scott and back onto the cushion, her eyes on him as she moved. "I can wait until later."
"Yeah," Scott said, because that was an invitation he was going to accept. "Later's cool."
George and Talia begged off the third time through, and people started to drift away after that. Cora and Isaac were first, but not before Cora made an unspecified threat to Derek if he didn't personally ensure that the record kept playing "at least five more times" and then turned up the stereo so it could be heard upstairs. Lydia and Erica slipped out with uncharacteristic silence; suddenly Allison and Scott had the couch to themselves. But that wasn't enough for Allison.
"Come on," she said, sitting up and tugging on his hand.
"It's later?" he asked.
She gave him what she hoped was a sexy look—she felt sexy, at least, which had to count for something—and got up from the couch. He followed her quickly, hands on her hips as they walked up the stairs. She flipped on the light in her room while he shut the door behind them and gave her a look so hungry she nearly lost her nerve.
But then the Beatles helped her out. They could hear the stereo clear as day, as Allison's room was above the music room, and at that moment the song changed from Ringo singing about octopus to John moaning about sex, the song that had got her hot in the first place. Easy, then, to slip off her t-shirt and push down her jeans, letting them pool around her bare feet before stepping out of them.
Scott had taken off his shirt too and oh, she'd never get used to the sight of all that muscle and golden skin. He flung his shirt into the corner and walked toward her, big brown eyes looking her up and down, and in the next moment they were kissing, one hand behind her head and the other at her waist. She leaned into his grasp, letting him take her weight, letting herself become dizzy with their kisses.
Her hands landed on his waist, feeling denim, and no, that would not do. She made quick work of the belt, button and fly and shoved them off his hips. He kicked them away viciously, clearly glad to be rid of them, and the force of his movement toppled them over onto the bed.
"Sorry," he said, breathless.
"I'm not," she said, smiling.
"Should we, um, I mean, are you—"
"On the pill? Of course. Talia."
"Groovy. Under the covers?"
"Oh, right," she replied, and they shoved the blankets down. While she was sitting up she took off her bra, then lay back down, flipping her hair up and out of the way.
"Wow," he said, his eyes wide like a cartoon.
She couldn't help but giggle, but she missed the solid feel of him. "Come here."
He slid up her body, entwining his legs with hers, and she could feel him hard for her through his briefs. The thought of what they were going to do—of that inside her—put butterflies in her stomach even though she wanted this, mind and body. She didn't think she'd ever been so wet and he'd barely touched her. The music ended and the sudden silence unnerved her, so she grasped his biceps, wanting something solid to hold.
He brushed a flattened palm across her nipple, a move he'd discovered she loved and promptly taught her to crave, and she gasped. "Cold?" he asked, teasing her stiffening nipple and smiling down at her.
"No, but you can warm me up," she replied, and he did, kissing her and laying flush on top of her. Someone downstairs must have flipped the record because the music started again, George singing about the sun, and it was kind of perfect. She slid her hands down his back, pulling him closer, and when she felt the cotton on his hips she decided it was time for his underwear to go. She'd slid her hands into the back of his jeans during other make out sessions but it was nothing like this, like having him firm in her hands.
He pushed up a little, so she could push his briefs down in the front, too, and they managed to get them off without his having to go too far away from her. Her panties were easier and he made quick work of them while she started at the hardness between his legs. She'd seen it before, but only poking out of his jeans when she was giving him a hand job, quick on the couch in his apartment when Stiles was working a session or, once, in the jeep. It looked even redder in contrast to his skin, emerging from the dark wiry hairs at the base. She bit her lip at the idea of it being inside her.
In taking off her panties, Scott had rearranged Allison's legs on either side of him, but rather than laying back down on top of her he put his face between her legs, inhaling deeply. He was a wolf after all, so she understood, but she pulled on his shoulders, not wanting him to get distracted. "No, later," she said.
"Greedy," he said, smiling, but did as he was told.
And she was greedy, and impatient, and ready for this to get started.
He lined himself up, pushing her legs a bit further apart, and then he was sliding into her, slow and steady. "Okay?" he asked.
She nodded, not wanting to speak quite yet. He felt bigger than he'd looked, and while it didn't hurt it ached, feeling his flesh parting hers. At least she was wet enough and everything felt slick and slippery and warm. It was easier when she looked in his eyes, felt how much he cared for her.
"God you're so tight," he said. "Like you're hugging me inside." He looked away, chuckling a little. "Sorry, that was dumb."
"No, no, that was sweet," she said, smiling, because of course he was sweet, even here, even now.
He turned to her again, which she wanted, but still looked a little bashful. "I should—" he began, then just leaned down and kissed her. As he did he pulled out, just a little, and thrust back into her. What started slow and steady gradually got faster, deeper, harder, but the kissing didn't stop, just got sloppier and more desperate. The songs were coming fast now, too, and she couldn't tell one from another as they rolled past her ears.
Her hands were on the small of his back, feeling the muscles contract as he thrust into her, and now that it no longer ached she was enjoying it more. She doubted she'd have completion, as she did when he put his hands down her jeans or up her skirt, but she loved being so close to him, having him inside her.
Scott was still thrusting into her when the record ended and she would have felt self-conscious about the rhythmic squeak of the bedsprings except that she had Cora in the next room on one side and Lydia and Erica on the other. The music picked up again soon enough, the record having been flipped again, and as Abbey Road filled the house for the fourth time that night she idly wondered who was still downstairs.
And she couldn't deny that when he said, "Close," she was glad this wouldn't go on much longer. She wrapped her legs around him, thinking the squeezing might help, and from the look on his face she was right. He stopped thrusting, just pushing into her and called out her name softly in her ear.
Then he collapsed on top of her, head on her shoulder, penis slipping out of her. No, she thought, his cock, that's what Cora called it, what Allison would call it too now that she was a fully grown modern woman having sex with men because she wanted to. She tried out the word in her mouth, silently: cock.
"Hmm?" Scott asked, because of course his wolf ears could hear the tiny "k" sound she'd made in the back of her throat.
"Nothing," she said, shaking her head.
He sat up slightly, then rolled off her onto his side, leaning on his bent arm. "Sorry, I'm probably heavy."
She wouldn't have said, but now that he mentioned it. Then, thinking of that song, she giggled.
"You're so heavyyyyyyyyy-ayyy," she sang, and giggled again.
"Yoko Ono looks pretty light so I don't think that's what he meant," Scott said, frowning slightly. Then his eyes dropped. "But I'm probably heavy like that, too."
Allison shrugged. "You are. But that's okay. I probably am."
Scott shook his head. "This is the song that made me think of you," he said, and they were quiet, listening to George: somewhere in her smile she knows that I don't need no other lover
"How many other lovers have you had?" she asked, then bit her lip in regret as soon as it came out of her mouth. She was a modern woman, above caring about such things.
"None really," he said. "I mean, I've been with girls—women, sorry, women—but not like this."
"None that you cared about?"
He sighed. "None that cared about me."
"I do," she said. "Care about you."
"Me too. Pretty groovy, huh?"
"Yeah. Pretty groovy."
She felt cold suddenly, her sweat—his sweat—their sweat—cooling on her skin, and she shivered. Without a word Scott pulled up the previously discarded blankets and lay down next to her, wrapping an arm around her back. She put her hand on his chest, and they listened to the music still coming up from downstairs. She felt cozy and content, not at all what she'd expected to feel after her first time. But then, she hadn't expected to find Scott, either.
The music ended and then began again, and Scott said, "Wonder who's still up," then yawned.
"Not us," Allison said.
"No," Scott said, pulling her a little closer. "Not us."
Scott had woken up with a woman in his arms a time or two in the past. Heck, he'd woken up with Allison herself in his arms only the week before. But he'd never woken up with a woman's hand between his legs.
He lifted his head from the pillow and squinted into the morning light. "Good morning?"
Allison lay next to him, and hey that was his t-shirt she had on. "I wanted to put it in my mouth," she said, smiling, "because I've never done that. But then I thought I would want to be asked first, so this is me waking you up to ask you if I can give you a blow job."
He mentally filed away the fact that she'd want to be asked first. Not that he'd do something she didn't like, but in the heat of the moment a fella could forget sometimes. "Um, yeah, go ahead," he said. "That would be cool."
"Groovy." She pushed the blankets down and he sat up, back against the headboard. She settled herself between his spread legs, stroking his cock and staring at it long enough that he started to feel a little self-conscious. Then she leaned forward, mouth open and tongue out, showering the head with little kitten licks that would have been adorable if they weren't also turning him on. She gradually moved on to broader strokes, her tongue flattening, and when she licked the length of him, running along the vein on the underside of his cock, he couldn't help but moan.
"You like that?" she whispered.
He nodded. "All of it."
She smiled at him, sly and sexy. "How about this?" she asked before taking the head into her mouth and sucking.
"That too," Scott said, feeling a little breathless. He needed something to do with his hands that wasn't touching her—he knew from even his limited experience that a girl giving her first blow job was a sensitive matter, where pressure of any kind would give a fella the opposite of what he wanted. He settled for bending his legs and resting his hands on his knees, where she probably wouldn't notice how firm his grasp was.
She focused on the head for a while and he was fine with that—her hand was still moving after all, so it was plenty—but then she shifted and began to take more of his length into her mouth. Even better. Fantastic, actually, the way her head and hand were moving up and down, her other hand lazily stroking his balls seemingly just because they were there. He was just getting into the rhythm of it when she stopped.
"I can't go further," she said, scowling. "I know some girls can take the whole thing."
"You really don't have to."
"But I want to."
He tried to think, because he was damned if this was going to get in the way, but it wasn't like he had advice on giving blow jobs, never having given one. Then he remembered a particularly pot-soaked rainy afternoon in San Francisco, when Stiles had finally broken down and explained exactly what two guys did together.
"You have to relax your throat," he said. "Stiles says it's like singing a really low note."
Allison looked dubious, but she leaned in to try it anyway—and they were both surprised when it worked like a charm. "Remind me to thank him."
Scott raised his eyebrows. "Later."
"Yeah," she said, chuckling low and soft in the back of her throat. "Later."
It was easily the best blow job of his life. So of course he had to reciprocate, for reasons both generous and selfish, had to push his nose as far inside her as possible, get to the source of the scent that had been making him crazy since he met her. She tasted good, too, her skin flushed and wet; apparently giving blow jobs was a turn on for her, which, groovy.
Allison wasn't put off at all by such wolfish behavior and instead urged him on with her hands on his shoulders. She'd been quiet the night before, whether because it was her first time or because they were both half listening to the Beatles he wasn't sure. Now her moans were going straight to his cock, spurring him on. Then she came with the same little sigh she'd made every time he'd brought her off with his fingers, which was comforting, somehow.
He wasn't sure of the etiquette of the situation now, with his cock hard again, and felt a little bashful about it. It wasn't her responsibility to get him off yet again, and he didn't want to be a creep. But he didn't want to just will it away and put his jeans back on, either.
When he sat up she looked him up and down and raised her eyebrows. "Guess you'd better sit up against the headboard again," she said.
"We could do something else," he said, though he moved as directed.
She climbed into his lap, straddling his hips, her hands on his shoulders. "Or we could do this."
With one hand on her waist, he guided his cock into her and she bit her lip, gasping and closing her eyes. She took him into her slowly, slowly, her thighs flexing with the effort, while he concentrated on holding her steady and not being distracted by the slick feel of her pussy gradually enveloping his cock. It was weird to think that his tongue had just been where his cock was now, that her mouth had been where her pussy was now. When she'd taken him in, her hips sitting flush against his, she finally exhaled and opened her eyes.
"Wow," he said. "Are you okay?"
She wiggled in his lap, something she'd done before except now his cock was inside her instead of underneath her, and he shuddered. "Yeah. Guess I have to move now?"
"I'll help you," he said, because his hands were still on her hips and he could lift her easily. Not that she was weak—she was amazingly strong, which he adored—but he was a werewolf and she was a human.
They stopped and started a few times until they found a rhythm that worked for both of them, but once they did it was fantastic. She was leaning back now, hands on his thighs, exposed and beautiful, and he kissed along her neck and chest, sucking a nipple into his mouth before letting it go and blowing on it gently, like she did to him sometimes. Just like last night she felt so good around his cock, soft and wet and warm. He could imagine doing it just this way for years into the future, but bit his tongue to keep from saying anything like that, which definitely would be too heavy.
"Oh god touch me," she said, and he complied, was a little annoyed with himself that he hadn't thought of it or done it the night before. But he could now, reaching with his thumb to her hard little pleasure button and pressing down firmly, the way she liked when she was close. He was close, too, come to think of it.
She kept them moving through the orgasms that came at nearly the same time, and he had to stop her, pulling her off his softening, sensitive cock and close to him as he moved them down the bed so they could lay flat, catch their breath. "Hope you liked it that way," she said, "because I really did."
"Man! It was—" he searched his sex-addled brain for a word that was big enough, strong enough— "the living end!"
She laughed, kissed him on the chest, and cuddled closer. "Good."
He inhaled deeply, and above their commingled scents—about which he couldn't think too much or he'd get yet another erection—was the distant scent of coffee. "Isaac must be up," he said.
"Oh god, I could eat everything," she said.
So they dressed, a little reluctantly, and made their way downstairs. Cora was at the foot of the stairs and when she saw them put a silent finger to her lips. She led them silently to the music room.
There, on a giant pile of cushions on the floor, lay Kira, Malia, Stiles and Derek, sleeping and cuddling like a pile of puppies. Isaac had his camera and seemed to be taking an entire roll of snaps from every angle possible. They were unbearably adorable, like a living "Love Is" comic but less naked. Then they went quickly to the kitchen, lest they wake them.
Erica and Lydia were already sitting at the big farmhouse table, drinking the coffee that had called Scott downstairs. "Aren't they just too much?" Erica asked.
"Guess they were up late," Allison said, getting a mug for her coffee. "What's for breakfast, Isaac?"
Lydia raised an eyebrow. "You two worked up quite an appetite last night, didn't you?"
Scott felt his face flushing, but Allison grinned, entirely unashamed. "You bet we did."
"Then I'll make pancakes," Isaac said.
It wasn't until Isaac had put the bacon on that the stragglers from the music room finally came into the kitchen. Boyd and Braeden were up by then, too, and when Derek appeared, hair every which way, Scott didn't think he'd ever seen Boyd smile so wide.
"Up late?" he asked.
Derek scowled. "Cora said five times," he replied.
"Good thing you had those cushions to sleep on," Braeden said, hiding her own smile behind her coffee cup.
Stiles pulled the bench out for Kira and Malia and then slumped down next to them. "Just give me the bacon," he said.
Scott, sitting opposite, couldn't help but notice that they were sitting the same way they'd been laying on the floor: Kira, Malia, Stiles, then Derek. He whispered into Allison's ear, "So, that."
"Yeah, that," she whispered back, then squeezed his hand under the table. "And this."
He turned to her, and he could feel the goofy grin on his face, but didn't care. "And this," he agreed, kissing her on the cheek.
"No kissing at the table," Cora said, passing them a stack of plates. "Family rule."
"That's just your rule, Cora," Derek said. "Mom and Dad kiss at the table all the time."
Cora threw up her hands. "Exactly! That's why there's a rule!"
The word "family" rang in his ears and Scott turned to Allison, who was laughing, his hand still in hers. Maybe thinking about forever wasn't such a drag. He just wouldn't say anything about it quite yet.
Toward the end of the week, George, Braeden and Derek finished building the studio in the second bungalow and George proudly gave them all a tour.
"We went ahead and put in the 16-track—ain't she a beauty?" he said. "I deferred to Braeden on all the technical decisions and I'm damn glad I did."
"Dolby noise reduction, too," Braeden said, her hand caressing the large machine in the corner. "Gotta give them state of the art to get them up here."
"Not that we'd be a big commercial studio," George said. "But I realized this summer when we were making Laura's record that it would have been so much nicer to be up here than running back and forth to the studio in town. Have an idea, you can record it right away. Between Laura and Cora, and Derek's producing, and whatever Talia and I might get up to, I'm sure we'll be as busy as we'd like, and the place will pay for itself." He reached out to Malia, who was standing next to him, and tousled her hair. "You too, sweetheart. If you ever want to."
"Thanks," Malia said.
"But that isn't all," George said, and led them down the hall to another room that took up the other half of the bungalow. "Practice space. Completely soundproof. Plenty of room for any set up you'd like, and we put a little 4-track in the corner for demos. The music room in the house is lovely, but there isn't space enough for a drum kit to be set up all the time. Loading doors at the back mean we can take the baby grand or the organ back and forth between here and the studio, or anything else we might want to move in or out. You folks'll be the first ones to try it out, help us work out the kinks. Though we shouldn't have any technical problems with Braeden here."
"You're an engineer?" Lydia asked, and Allison was relieved that she wasn't the only one who hadn't really known what it was that Braeden did.
"Almost ten years now," she said. "Started out doing sound for television but I like recording better. Why, surprised?"
Lydia shrugged. "Most of the engineers I've known have been nerds."
"You haven't talked to her about Dolby," Boyd said. "But only ask if you have a couple of hours."
"Shut up," Braeden said, shoving him, but he only raised an eyebrow in response.
"So other than putting the wires where Braeden told you," Stiles said, "what were you doing, Derek?"
Derek scowled slightly. "I built it," he said, miming a hammer.
"He also picked out the furniture and the rugs, and hung the art," Braeden said.
"And it was Derek's idea to put that big double-paned picture window in here," George said.
"We live in the woods," Derek said. "We should be able to see it."
"How very wolfish of you," Stiles said, but his eyes were twinkling. Derek clenched his jaw anyway, and it struck Allison that Derek could take any amount of teasing from his sisters, or Malia, or even Allison herself, and seemed to have gotten used to it from Erica, but with Stiles it got under his skin. She wondered if it was because he was used to forthright women like his mother and sisters, and more retiring men like his father or Boyd. But then, her memory of his uncle Peter wasn't of a retiring personality, and they'd been close.
Or he had a crush, which was Erica's theory. Though nearly all of Erica's theories about human relations were a variation on "they want to make it with each other."
"I think it's groovy," Erica was saying, looking around the room. "We made Ravettes records in dingy rooms with bad lighting where the only things to look at were each other and our managers, maybe a songwriter or two."
"If Jennifer wasn't all over them," Lydia said, rolling her eyes at the memory. "But Erica's right. Here we have stylish carpets and some art on the wall and color everywhere." She sat down on a nearby chair. "I might not mind spending time here."
"Well!" George said. "I'm sure we couldn't ask for a higher compliment!"
"Thanks," Derek said, and he was even smiling. "So Scott, let's set up in this practice space, and we can leave the music room to the women."
"Why you?" Cora asked. "Why not us?"
"Because we have a drummer who's been playing bongos for most of the past week," Derek said. "And Kira needs to start plugging in."
"I … can't actually argue with that," Cora said.
"We can share," Scott said. "We won't need it all the time, I'm sure."
"Or you could let us have this," Cora said, patting the top of the 4-track.
As it turned out, Braeden had a spare 4-track sitting in her storage locker out by LAX, so after lunch everyone scattered. Cora and Erica took Kira to purchase her first electric guitar; Scott and Stiles went back to their place to bring their gear back to the practice space; Boyd drove Braeden down to Long Beach, with Malia along for the ride; and Derek came back to the house with Allison and Lydia to rearrange the music room.
"You girls—I mean women, of course, don't tell Cora I said that—you women feel free to do whatever you like with this room," Talia said.
"Thank you," Lydia said, and then set to clearing out a space in the middle of the room. "Derek, can you take those two red chairs and—what do you think, Allison, the blue chairs from the TV room?"
Allison blinked; she'd been listening, but something was niggling at the back of her mind. "Yes, I think—those are good chairs, yes," Allison said.
Lydia cocked her head. "Something wrong?"
"No, not at all," she said, and moved some guitars out of the way while Derek arranged the four chairs in the center of the room.
"Yes," Lydia said, nodding her approval. "Exactly as I pictured."
"We're a group," Allison said. "You and me and Cora and Erica. We're a group."
"Of course we are," Lydia replied, looking around the room. "You know, I have a wall hanging back at my house that will look perfect just above the piano."
"You have a house?" Derek asked.
"Money from hit records has to be invested someplace," Lydia said, waving her hand dismissively. "It's in Malibu. I decorated the place and rent it out to visiting actors. Less scrutiny living up here."
"Huh," Derek replied, and stepped on the piano bench to take down the painting that hung there.
Allison sat in one of the chairs in the corner. "I suppose I wasn't thinking about it. Kira was around, and Malia, and we were all taking turns playing our own songs and I assumed that we were just helping each other on our own things."
"Which we still might do," Lydia said. "In fact I'm sure Cora will, eventually."
"Or sooner than that," Derek added.
"But the four of us, together." Four women, in a group, collaborating, singing their own songs, no Svengali figure to direct their actions. It was unheard of. And yet, they were doing it.
By the time Cora, Erica and Kira were back from the music store, Braeden had set up her 4-track with four microphones in the center of the room, one of which could be moved over to the piano if they so desired. Scott and Stiles had also finished setting up the practice room and so were present to admire Kira's sleek white Gibson Les Paul guitar, as well as the guitarrón Cora had picked up "because the stand-up bass is a pain in my ass."
"Cool," Scott said, looking it over. "My uncle has one but I've only messed around with it a few times."
"Hard to pick up?" Cora asked.
Scott chuckled. "For you, Cora, I don't think anything is hard to pick up, but no, it's pretty straightforward. Takes more finger strength but you're a wolf so that shouldn't be a problem."
"Not a bit," Cora agreed.
"Well, Isaac said about an hour until dinner so, Kira, want to go to the practice space and plug in?" Scott asked.
"Great!" Kira replied, and they walked out, leaving the four women alone.
"Looks good in here, baby," Erica said. "Oh, sorry, thanks to you too, Allison."
"No, I did it all," Lydia said, sitting next to Allison in one of the chairs in the center of the room. "Derek put things where I told him to and Allison sat in the corner contemplating the obvious."
"The obvious?" Cora asked.
"That we're a group," Allison said. "The four of us. I just—it hadn't struck me until today."
Erica flipped one of the red chairs around and sat in it backwards. "I don't know. I like to think of us as more of a collective, like with artists. Groups are—you can't really do your own thing in a group. At least, Lydia and I couldn't. It might be better for families."
"Or worse," Cora said.
"I don't think we should even have a name," Erica continued. "I had to pay money out of my pocket to stop being Erica the Ravette. Why just become Erica the something else? I'd like to be Erica, please."
"We have to record under some kind of name," Lydia pointed out.
"Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell didn't need a name," Allison said. "Though with four people that could get long."
"Not with just first names or just last names," Cora noted.
Lydia said, "I'd prefer last names, because we only really had first names as Ravettes, but I leave the decision to Cora and Allison; you're the ones with the famous last names. You might want to leave them behind."
Allison thought of Kate and Gerard, and she did not want to abandon the Argent name for them to define. Dad probably wouldn't want it that way, either. "Last names are good for me," she said.
"Me too," Cora said. "I'm proud of being a Hale. Laura didn't ditch her name, either."
"So: Argent, Hale, Martin and Reyes," Erica said.
"I like it," Allison said.
Lydia was nodding as well. "Alphabetical, very egalitarian. Good job, honey."
"Good." Cora picked up her guitar and sat down in the last of the four chairs. "Enough talking. Let's put a demo down before dinner. Maybe that song of Erica's? It's in pretty good shape I think."
"Yeah," Allison said. "Let's do that."
Despite the practice sessions they'd had already, in the Hale music room and their landlady's place and their own place and that night in the studio, all they really knew was that they could play together. It wasn't until that first day in the new practice space, with an organ for Boyd and Stiles behind his kit and Kira with her new guitar and Scott taking up the bass, that any of them knew how the band was actually going to sound.
Derek sat on the couch with Malia, and everyone was looking at Scott. He shifted his feet, feeling some of that old pressure from the Jackson and Danny days. But then Kira smiled at him and oh yeah, she wasn't an asshole. He smiled back.
"Let's start with 'I Don't Want Another Woman,'" he said.
"Okay," Kira said, and got them started, playing the Les Paul like she'd always owned it. Then Stiles kicked in, followed by Scott and Boyd, and Scott was so startled by how big the sound was that he almost forgot to sing. No borrowed equipment this time, nor space, and that let them own the song, too.
"Well, I think we've got something," Derek said, nodding.
"A lot," Malia agreed. She added, "You all sound amazing," but she was looking only at Kira, and Scott couldn't look at anyone because he didn't want to crack up.
"Thanks!" Kira said, beaming.
"What about that song of yours?" Derek asked Kira.
"We can wait on that," Scott said quickly.
"Hey man, do we have a name?" Boyd asked. "A friend was asking the other day."
"Actually," Scott said, "I was thinking, 'Peace.' Short and easy to remember. And, not that the music is peaceful but …"
"No, man, I dig," Boyd said, nodding. "Yeah, I dig it a lot."
Scott knew Stiles liked it; he'd been the first person Scott had brought up the name to. But Kira was smiling, too. "Derek?" Scott asked.
"It'll look good on a poster," he said. "Let's do it."
"Groovy," Scott replied, smiling. "We're Peace." He paused, letting that sink in. "How about 'Now I Need You?' Since we interrupted that for the Beatles the other night, and right after we'd figured out the backing vocals."
They tore through their songs, because it wasn't really the time for stopping and perfecting, but for hearing what they could really do, how the band sounded. Scott was glad for the catch-as-catch-can practices they'd had over the past couple of weeks because they'd started to trust each other's intentions, to make suggestions and accept them. But now in the space made for them, where they could look out over the forest or at the art on the wall, they were settling into the kind of groove that made Scott just want to write more songs, to see what the band could do with them.
When Talia came in to order them in to dinner because everyone else's food was going to get cold, Scott was shocked to find that three hours had passed.
"Clearly we'll need a clock in here, Derek," Talia said before leading them back into the house.
Scott came to the table grinning and sat down next to Allison.
"I have a band!" he said.
"So do I!" she replied, and seemed just as excited.
Scott was really glad he was dating a musician.
After that, of course, the hard work started. Stiles and Boyd still had a few studio commitments, and Kira was working out how her electric guitar was different than the steel guitar she was used to. Scott used his free time to practice, to write bass parts that he could actually play but weren't terrible, to clean up the song fragments he still had kicking around in his notebook. And sometimes he went into the music room and sat on the couch next to Malia to listen to the women singing, which was always inspiring and pushed him to work harder. They were just that good.
And yeah, he liked watching Allison play. It wasn't like she didn't appear in the practice space while he was playing, too. After dinner they'd talk, or maybe more than that, and while he wasn't spending every night up at the Hale's he was there often enough that Stiles would bring Malia back to Hollywood with him, take her out dancing at one of the clubs on the Strip and then have her stay at their place.
"You need to wash your sheets more often," Malia told Scott, wrinkling her nose.
The band practiced four to five hours every day, working around Boyd and Stiles's schedules. There was a calendar on the wall with a big red circle of their first gig in late October at some little place off Sunset that Derek had talked into taking them mostly sound unheard since they hadn't yet laid down any demos they were all happy with. But they sounded better every day, and Scott was sure they were going to get to a good place by the time they were playing out in front of people.
And then, a week before their deadline, Scott was in the practice space working with Kira on her song when Stiles came in.
"Hey, man," he said. "Sounding good. She's going to love it."
"Think so?" Kira asked.
"Who wouldn't? Even if she doesn't, you know, dig you, she already digs you. At least then you can talk about it. I'm sure it'll be cool either way."
"Thanks," Kira said, grinning. "We made a few changes."
"Yeah?" Stiles asked. He bent over Kira's shoulder to see her lyric sheet, and Scott wondered if their clothes had shrunk in the wash because Stiles's jeans seemed a little tighter, and his shirt rode up a bit.
Derek, who was walking down the hall toward the studio, glanced in and promptly walked right into the doorframe.
Stiles twisted at the waist, turning his head, but didn't bother to stand up straight. "Hey man," he said, and then seeing that Derek was clutching his forehead, asked, "What happened to you?"
"Nothing!" Derek said, scowling. "Where have you been?"
"Um, working?" Stiles said, finally unbending and turning fully to face Derek. "You know, the Davy Jones record?" He crossed his arms.
Derek blinked and cleared his throat. "Well, just as long as you remember your priorities."
Stiles's eyes narrowed. "Don't worry about it," he said.
Kira looked from one to the other and then held up her lyric sheet. "We've been working on my song!" she said.
"That's great," Derek said, his face softening. "Play it for me later? I need to, um." Then he split, and they heard the door of the studio closing behind him.
"That was weird," Stiles said.
"Your shirt is riding up," Kira said, poking him in the side.
Stiles batted her hand away and pulled it down. "Yeah, it's been doing that all day. I guess I've been playing so much I'm finally getting the muscles all you creatures of the night types had back when you were six or something. Maybe Lydia can help me buy some new shirts?"
"That would make her super happy," Scott said.
"Cool. Okay I'm going to go to the house and say hi to the women and get a soda or something. Hope he's putting out better vibes by the time I get back."
After Stiles left, Kira said, "Do you think they'll ever talk about it?"
Scott shrugged. "The one thing I've learned is, no matter how much you want to? It's never a good idea to give Stiles romantic advice. They'll just have to figure it out on their own."
They'd been singing together for almost two months, recorded five demos, lived in the same house, and Argent Hale Martin and Reyes were having their first Important Band Meeting, having made their first Important Band Decisions the night before.
So now they were in the studio, wanting surroundings a little more official and a little less prone to walk-throughs than the music room, with Talia, Derek, Braeden and Malia.
"We've been talking about how we want this record to sound," Allison said, "and one thing we agreed on was that we wouldn't be here, the four of us, if it weren't for Talia. Since we all have so much respect for you, we wanted to ask if you'd produce this album for us."
"I'd be more than happy to," Talia said, smiling, "but are you sure?"
"We want a woman," Lydia said, "and we trust you. You have experience with all the Hales albums and Laura's record."
Erica added, "It doesn't hurt that you're an alpha. Since we don't always agree."
Talia raised an eyebrow. "And you'd listen to me? All of you?" She looked at Cora.
"Promise," Cora said. "We just want the record to be good, Mom. Honest."
"In this room we're all professionals, and you should call me Talia," she said.
"Does that mean yes?" Cora asked.
"I hope I won't regret this but yes, it does."
"You won't," Lydia said.
Allison turned to Derek. "We wanted you to hear for yourself so you'd know why we weren't asking you."
"No, I totally understand," he said, nodding. "I can concentrate on the band. Besides, Cora hates it when I tell her what to do."
Cora rolled her eyes. "When have you been right?" she asked.
"Sometimes!" Derek replied.
Talia put a hand on Braeden's shoulder. "You're going to have your hands full between these two," she said.
Braeden shrugged. "I'd rather be busy."
"That's groovy," Malia said, "but why am I here?"
Cora's face softened as she turned to her cousin. "I know you don't want to play in front of people anymore, and we'll get someone else for the band if we go on tour, but ... would you play drums for us? Just on the record?"
"Why me?" Malia asked.
Erica said, "Because we know you, and you know us."
"And you're a woman," Lydia added. "We'd like to have all women working on this record if we can."
"Most importantly, you're really good," Allison said. "I miss watching you play. You don't have to perform for people to still have music in your life."
Malia looked at each of them. "You yell at each other sometimes. I don't want to be yelled at."
"If we're yelling at each other around you," Cora said, "you can leave until we've cooled down."
Talia said, "If you try it and it's too much, we can always find someone else. This is Los Angeles; there are plenty of session players out there." She put an arm around Malia, sliding their chairs closer together.
"My kit?" Malia asked.
"Packed up in the attic," Derek replied.
"I'm sure that Stiles would be more than happy to go shopping with you to buy whatever needs replacing or updating," Allison said.
"The doctors recommended that you find some projects, when you were feeling stronger," Talia said. "This might be a good place to start, hmm? Something familiar, among friends?"
"Okay," Malia said, smiling. "I'll do it."
"Oh, thank you," Allison said. "Just wait; it'll be fun! Like when we were little."
"Maybe," Malia said, her smile growing broader as she sat up from where she'd been leaning against Talia. "But no yelling!" She shook a finger at them.
"No yelling," Erica said.
Lydia sat back in her chair with a self-satisfied smile. "I told you we could do this with only women," she said. "We simply had to find the right ones."
"And one more," Talia said. "Laura will be home tomorrow."
Allison hadn't seen Laura for a good two years, if not longer. She'd been one of the many cool older women in Allison's life when she was a kid. Only, unlike Kate, Laura had never lost Allison's respect. Allison wondered what she would make of their project. Her new single was already on the radio, though Allison hadn't seen a Billboard lately and wasn't sure how it was charting. She was coming home just as her album was due to be released in the States.
"Just in time for the show," Derek said, as Scott's band would have their first public appearance the next day.
"Oh that's right," Talia said. "I never can get dates straight in my mind. Your father always handed scheduling. Well, we'll just have to bring her with us, won't we?"
"Mom, I'm not going to be home long enough to see all these people, I keep telling you," Laura Hale said, announcing her entrance into the house. When she came into the music room where Argent Hale Martin and Reyes were set up, she stopped short. "Allison," she said, holding out her arms.
Allison put her guitar down and stepped into Laura's embrace. "Welcome back," she said.
"I'm so glad you're here. Let me look at you."
She stepped back. She was just wearing jeans and a peasant shirt, nothing special.
"You look fantastic. Man, I am so glad you got away from that nutso grandfather of yours."
"Laura!" Talia said, coming into the room behind her.
"Come on, Mom. You booked us on the Smothers Brothers while that man made her sing at three Nixon rallies and the Republican Convention. "
"Well, I suppose you do have a point there," Talia agreed. "Still, even if his political beliefs leave something to be desired, he is deserving of a modicum of respect."
Laura growled her disagreement, low in her throat. "Did you get to meet Tricky Dick himself?"
"Is he as creepy looking in person as he is on TV?"
"Creepier," Allison said, making a face. "Much creepier."
"Ugh," Laura said. "Our presidents used to be handsome and now they look like guys you probably shouldn't accept a ride from after a concert." She shook her head. "Anyway I hear you were the catalyst that got these three playing together? Cora and Lydia were ready to scratch each other's eyes out when I left."
"It wasn't that bad," Cora said.
"It was close," Erica replied.
"I guess?" Allison said. "It wasn't—they didn't seem to be—at least, I don't know, everything just fell into place?"
Laura turned to where Malia lay on the couch. "Accurate?" she asked.
"She calms things down," Malia said. "I'm not sure how. I think part of it is that Lydia listens to what she says."
"Calm enough to bring you out of retirement, Mom says. I'm jealous! I'll have to make another record so you can play on mine, too."
Malia smiled, flattered.
"Well, I should go out and see the studio and Derek's little project."
"I'll come with you," Malia said.
Allison suddenly felt protective; Laura could be a little harsh with strangers. "Me too," she said, and to her bandmates, "I'll just be a minute or so."
The three of them walked over to the bungalow, Allison asking about England and what Laura had been up to there: television appearances and small gigs. When they opened the door Allison recognized the song as the one Kira had written, that she didn't want Malia to hear until tonight.
Allison called out, "Hey! Look who I brought!" and the band stopped playing. Derek and Braeden were standing near the door, listening, and Laura made a beeline for her brother.
"I've been gone for seven weeks and you've already found a songwriter and put together a band?" she said.
He smiled sheepishly, and shrugged. "Good luck, I guess? This is Scott, he's the primary songwriter, and you know Boyd. Kira's on guitar, and that's Stiles in the back."
"Kira came out from Nashville with me," Allison said.
"She's an amazing guitar player," Malia said.
"I'm really looking forward to your show tonight," she said. "I'm sure it'll be groovy. And you're getting quite a producer in Derek here. He did two of the songs on my new record and they're both fantastic."
"Thanks," Derek said, going pink.
"Wow," Stiles said. "I don't think I've ever seen you blush before, man."
"I'm not blushing," Derek said, scowling and turning redder. "And we have a show tonight so let's get to the next song."
"Hey, man, it's cool," Stiles said.
Derek sighed, and Allison looked at Scott, who shook his head. Aloud he said, "All right, let's do 'Alone Again Or.'"
"I'll leave you to it," Laura said. "See you at dinner?"
"Probably," Derek said. "Yeah, we'll be there."
They went next door to the studio where Braeden showed Laura all the technical details of the studio.
"Soundproofing is awfully good," she said. "I can't hear the band at all. I assume they can't hear us, either?"
"Not at all," Braeden confirmed.
Laura nodded. "Then please tell me that adorable boy Stiles isn't just torturing my brother. Or that he isn't just torturing himself, like he usually does."
"No," Braeden replied. "They just haven't figured themselves out yet."
"I wish they would," Malia said, rolling her eyes.
"And do you have a crush, little one?" she asked, bumping Malia's shoulder with her own.
"I'm as tall as you are!" Malia protested. "And I don't really want to talk about that." She glanced at Allison, then quickly looked away.
"Okay," Laura said, in that tone that meant she was only satisfied for the time being. "Scott's pretty foxy, too, Allison. Broad shoulders, mustache, really good hair. Trust me, when you get older you're going to appreciate really good hair."
Allison giggled. "He's pretty far out," she said.
"Good," Laura said, nodding. "You deserve it after all those USC Republican squares your grandfather was always making you date."
"They weren't so bad," Allison said. Mostly, they'd been innocuous, polite, human boys with well-combed hair and well-pressed suits. They held open doors and chose movies but didn't have a thing to say about them afterwards. They were good for necking or, with the foxier ones, some heavy petting in the front seat of their American-made station wagons. She'd intended to lose her virginity to one of them, just to get it over with, except she always forgot their names as soon as they brought her home.
Now she was glad she'd waited; Scott made love like it meant something, and even if she didn't still believe in waiting for marriage she had hoped for that much. If they didn't last, he'd be worth remembering as her first. But she thought maybe they had a chance.
The club Derek had convinced to take Peace sound-unheard was just off Sunset. They were second on the bill, after some boring Doors-ish band, but there was a bit of a crowd there, Derek's name apparently enough to create some interest even if if was mostly idle curiosity or something to do on a Wednesday night. Derek, Braeden and the four members of Peace huddled backstage, ready to load on their gear.
"Man, we haven't played out in months," Stiles said. "Not like this."
"Neither have I," Kira said, eyes wide with nerves.
Scott put his hand on her shoulder. "Kira, you're amazing. We all are."
"First show's always the hardest," Derek said, and Scott remembered that for all the time he'd spent playing parties and clubs in San Francisco, Derek was the one who'd basically grown up on tour. "It gets easier after that. You're ready for this."
"Yeah," Kira said, nodding. "You're right."
"You trust each other in practice," Derek continued. "Trust each other tonight and you'll be fine."
Stiles nodded, looking at Scott, and he knew they could both feel the difference from their previous band. "Yeah, man, trust. Thanks, Derek."
Derek just blinked at him, not knowing what to do with a sincere Stiles, and after a little silence Braeden jostled him with her arm. "You're welcome. Um, glad I could help."
The other band came off the stage and the curtains were drawn—the club had been an old vaudeville house years ago, so it had an elevated stage and a curtain to go with it, though the seats had all been torn out. They waited for the other band to load out and then they loaded in, Braeden supervising because it turned out that she was a total control freak when it came to the sound, and while she trusted the band she didn't trust anyone at the club, particularly after their earlier perfunctory sound check.
"You're as good as I can get you," she said, stepping off the stage, and Scott supposed the same could be said for Derek, too. It was up to them now.
The curtains pulled back and they walked out on stage. A lot more folks were there than had been earlier, including all of their own friends, and Scott couldn't help but grin. "Hey, thanks for coming out. We're Peace."
Stiles clicked off the beat to "I Don't Want Another Woman" and it was like they were flying. Scott stopped thinking, let instinct and muscle memory guide him. They were rusty, to be sure, but nothing beat actually playing in front of a crowd to work the kinks out. It felt good to just be back up there and hear people who weren't their friends reacting to the songs.
So far, so good.
Scott realized how used he'd become to Jackson's peacocking on stage, how strongly he'd pull the focus when he was playing his solos, working the crowd while Scott sang. Kira was the opposite, not used to performing yet. She looked at Scott, at Stiles or Boyd, at her hands during her solos, but rarely at the audience. Not having a third person upfront was different, too; Kira had a tendency to fall back toward Boyd if she wasn't singing backup. Scott would step back, too, during Kira's solos, playing off of Stiles.
But otherwise he was up front by himself, singing lead on every song, a little patter between songs. And it actually didn't suck. He liked the songs, the way they felt in his throat and in his hands, and he was proud of his band. Kira killed it on "Alone Again Or," and Scott could see the guitar men in the crowd look on her with at least some of the respect she deserved.
He could just see the familiar outline of Allison's head toward the back of the room, looked for her every chance he could get, watched as she slowly made her way forward, Malia with her. Sure, it was cheesy to sing "Now I Need You" to her again—it had been the first song she'd heard him sing, after all—but now the song made him think of her and not Catherine Deneuve, which grounded him, and probably made the vocal better, too.
Boyd switched to rhythm guitar for a couple of songs, including the one he wrote that was sort of about the Hale place and sort of not, then was back to the keyboards for the mostly-instrumental number that gave Scott's voice a rest. It was easy to get the crowd to cheer for the other members of the band, and for once he wanted to, felt generous instead of confused and resentful. He loved leading a band; he just hadn't loved leading a band with Jackson in it.
He walked over to Kira, as her song was next, and said, "Ready?"
Kira looked out over the crowd, finding Malia standing close to her mike, and nodded. "Now or never," she said, laughing a little shakily.
"Don't worry," Scott said. "It'll be groovy. Trust us."
She turned back to Stiles, who was grinning and twirling a stick in his hand, and Boyd, smiling softly at her from behind the keyboard. "I do."
Scott grinned. "Cool. Let's do this."
When Allison and the others arrived at the club, another band was finishing up, entirely derivative from what Allison could tell. Which annoyed her mostly because they didn't provide enough distraction from the butterflies in her stomach.
"Hey," Erica said, "isn't the lead singer that weird guy Kali dated for a while? Ennis?"
Lydia looked up at the stage. "Oh my god it is," she said. "He really grew out his hair. Didn't know he had it in him, frankly."
During the changeover Allison stayed near the back of the room, jumpy as anything. She almost never got nervous when she performed; she'd been singing since before she could remember.
Laura leaned close and whispered, "I've never seen you so keyed up. You must really like this guy."
"I do," she said, and watching him walking onto the stage, bass guitar in hand, was like seeing him again for the first time. She felt the same punch to her stomach, or maybe someplace lower, a stirring that made her feel quite wild. Her nerves turned to excitement, though she wasn't sure that was any easier to manage.
Allison was familiar with Peace's songs, of course; she spent a lot of her own downtime sitting on the couch in their practice space. She found it unexpectedly both restful and helpful to watch someone else's creative process while she was in the middle of figuring out her own. In the past Gerard had made all the decisions, and while fighting for her own vision was exciting and important, it was also new, and sometimes exhausting.
Now she was cheering on people she loved. The crowd seemed interested, at least, which was a lot for a new band in front of LA scenesters who could be a bit jaded. After the first song Allison started moving more toward the front, Malia coming with her eagerly, until they were standing quite near Kira's microphone.
"I can see Stiles better this way," Malia said, and Allison just nodded, let her have that. Scott and Kira were still working out their own interplay, though Kira wasn't nearly as nervous as she was worried she would be—or at least, she didn't seem to be.
"Thanks!" Scott was saying. "Kira's on the guitar; she's amazing." He pointed to her and the crowd applauded. "This is her song."
"Kira wrote a song?" Malia asked Allison. "I didn't know that."
"I think she wanted it to be a surprise," Allison replied.
Kira played alone as Scott sang the first verse, but at the chorus the band kicked in, the same groove they'd been in all night. Malia was scowling at first, but when Scott got to the second verse lines about being invisible and then being seen, she started to smile.
"That's me!" she said. "I come in colors! She wrote a song about me!"
Kira launched into her solo then. Malia was transfixed, staring up at her and scarcely even breathing.
As Scott began to sing the third verse, Kira risked looking down in the crowd for Malia, and the look that passed between them gave Allison chills just to witness it.
"I need to talk to her!" Malia said.
"I think you just did," Allison replied.
By the time Peace finished their set the crowd was with them, clapping and cheering. Allison didn't have a sense of how these things usually went, not having been to many rock shows. But it seemed encouraging to her, and Scott had a big smile on his face as they left the stage.
Allison and Malia rushed backstage after the show, where the band were congratulating each other with hugs and pats on the back.
Even Derek seemed pleased. "It was a good start," he said. "We should put together a demo this week, but I'm sure we can capitalize on this."
"You looked fantastic up there," Allison said.
Scott grinned at her. "Thanks! It was, yeah, it felt good. I hadn't played a show in months. I didn't think I missed it this much, but, yeah."
More people started to come backstage then, some friends and some strangers. Allison hadn't often been backstage at someone else's show, and certainly not at a rock show. But she was surprised to see that some of the things her grandfather had always said about it were true, such as the girls making eyes at Scott from across the room. Allison might have done something possessive, felt the impulse spark inside her, but Scott-—it was as though he didn't even notice them, or at least, he didn't seem to take seriously what they wanted from him. He just nodded and thanked them and talked up his bandmates. Boyd and Stiles had a few admirers of their own, too.
Allison wasn't surprised that Kira didn't have many people buzzing around her, but a few men did shake Kira's hand and compliment her playing. Malia hovered nearby, protectively, though anything they wanted to say to each other would of course have to wait until they were alone. Derek was on the other side of Kira, though his attention seemed mostly on Stiles, who unlike Scott was flirting with the girls who'd approached him. Stiles looked up to see Derek scowling, and smirked, which only made Derek more agitated. He grit his teeth and clenched his fists, seeming to try to stay controlled, then turned to Scott and said, "Keep an eye on these two? I'm going to go help Braeden."
"Cool," Scott said, raising an eyebrow.
Derek glared at Stiles again, then walked out of the room—or tried to, but Stiles cut through the crowd and grabbed his elbow.
"What the hell, man?" Stiles asked. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Derek said, glancing down at Stiles's hand around his arm. "Let me go, Stiles."
"No. After this clears out I'm going to load my kit into the jeep and then you and I are going to bring it back up to the house and have a conversation."
Derek looked like he wanted anything but that; then he sighed. "Fine," he said, and shrugged out of Stiles's grip.
He turned and almost ran into Laura on his way out of the room. "What's the matter with him?" she asked Stiles.
Stiles flailed so hard he almost fell over.
True to their word, Stiles and Derek loaded Stiles's kit into his jeep and split early. But most of them hung around the club for a while, enjoying having a night away from the house and their work. Braeden and Boyd vanished at some point, the amps and Boyd's organ in her van. Lydia and Erica all but took custody of Malia and Kira, Lydia having driven down to Hollywood in her little Beetle and saying they'd be sure to get Malia and Kira back to Laurel Canyon. So Scott and Allison split, bringing Scott's bass and Kira's guitar in the back of Allison's car. When they reached the house there was no sign of the van, but Stiles's jeep was sitting unloaded in the driveway.
"Light's on in the practice space," Allison said, as she could see the glow from the window against the woods at the back of the bungalow.
Scott nodded. "Let's put the guitars away, then." He let "and make sure Stiles and Derek aren't killing each other" go understood.
Inside, Scott and Allison saw that Stiles and Derek were definitely not killing each other. It was actually the opposite. Scott cleared his throat, but not before he and Allison got an eyeful of nearly-naked wolf and human wrapped around each other on the couch in the practice space.
Stiles and Derek startled, but were too breathless to say anything.
"You don't want to do this here," Scott said. "If Cora finds you?"
"Or Laura," Allison said.
"Yeah," Derek said, slumping just a little, then reaching for his shirt.
"Just go to Derek's room or something," Scott said.
Allison grinned at him. "Because we will be staying in Hollywood tonight."
He turned to her, quickly. "Really?"
"Since Stiles has found someplace else to sleep," she said shrugging.
"Fine," Stiles said. "Go, with my blessing."
"Play nice," Scott said, and they walked out.
When Scott woke up the next morning Allison was already out of bed; he could hear her moving around the apartment. This was the first time she'd stayed at his place and it was cool, a little more private than the Hale house, not that anyone there really cared what they were up to now that they were pretty much together. So he lay back, hands behind his head, and gave himself a minute to take stock.
Out of sight girlfriend who dug him right back, check.
Tight, with-it band that sounded cool and was going places, check.
Laid back pack that let him run with them even though he was an alpha in his own right, check.
Not to mention that Stiles and Kira had in one night gotten their love lives straight, so now they could all just focus on the music. Yeah, life was pretty groovy.
That out of sight girlfriend came back into the bedroom with a cup of coffee for him and one for herself, and sat cross-legged at the end of the bed.
"Well?" he asked, because he'd been too out of it the night before to really ask her about the show once they were alone.
"I'm glad I met you before last night," she said, "because otherwise I would have had to wrestle a lot of other women to get to you."
He laughed, flattered. "Not true. I'd want you at first sight no matter what."
"Good to know," she said. "But what I also mean is, I know you were worried but you looked comfortable up there. Confident as well as sexy, you dig?"
"Yeah, you made that pretty clear last night," he said, grinning. "But the music? The crowd seemed into it from the stage, but—"
"Of course you sounded great," she said, as if there'd never been any doubt. But maybe there wasn't, in her mind. "I can't wait to see you again."
"When do I get to see you play? So I can shove the other guys away from you?"
She laughed and shook her head. "Not until the record's done, I think."
"I'll be there," he declared, and then his stomach growled.
"Do you have any food here?"
"Cereal, if the milk is good."
"It's good," she said, holding up her coffee cup.
Which is why Scott and Allison had sort-of-dressed and were eating shredded wheat and bananas at the little table in the kitchen when Stiles came back to the apartment, clearly freshly showered.
"So, sorry about last night," he said. "And before that when we were being assholes to each other. That probably got old."
"It's cool," Scott said, shrugging. After all, Stiles had put up with his being super into Allison with a minimum amount of grumbling.
"Cool," Stiles replied, and slumped into the bean bag chair in the corner. "Oh and thanks for the advice about Derek's sisters. When they saw me this morning they would not stop ragging on him until their mother made them stop." He paused. "I've never been given so many compliments about my appearance and yet felt so uncomfortable."
Allison giggled. "Well, now maybe you know a little bit of how Lydia feels," she said.
"Yeah, maybe," Stiles said. "Hadn't thought of that. Anyway I already said something to Kira. Who I guess is with Malia now."
"How did they seem?" Allison asked.
"Well, Malia wasn't going to pursue anything more than a friendship because of the mental thing, dig? But I've seen them together when Malia gets stuck or confused about something and Kira can roll with it. They didn't get teased nearly as much as we did, at least."
"Derek can probably take it a little better than Malia can," Scott said.
"Maybe," Stiles allowed. "But it did take me a good half hour to get him to unclench his jaw after that."
Stiles was only back at the apartment to get clean clothes; after eating lunch the three went back up to the Hale place and got back into their routines. Which for Peace meant reconvening in the practice space (which, luckily, did not smell like sex, even to Scott's alpha nose) and talking about the show the night before—what to do differently, what to improve on.
Derek said, "Let's lay down a quick 4-track demo of 'She Comes in Colors,' 'Alone Again Or,' and 'I Don't Want Another Woman,' so I can take it around to some more clubs."
"You know," Stiles said, "what we should be doing is recording right after the shows. Fast and dirty so we can't overthink it, make it sound like we're playing live."
"You mean, instead of just having sex after?" Boyd asked, grinning.
Stiles's eyes narrowed. "Like we don't all know where you and Braeden disappeared to last night," he said. "Oh, speaking of which, we need new monitors. I don't know about you, Boyd, but I couldn't hear Scott at all and could barely hear Kira."
Braeden poked her head in, as if she'd been summoned. "My monitors are fine, thanks," she said. "But the organ was too loud. We'll bring it down next time."
"I like that idea, though," Scott said. "About recording. Why not? I don't think we want to do a whole lot of overdubbing and such. Make the sound clean, like it is when we play."
Kira nodded. "I like how when you play live it isn't perfect? I'd be tempted to make it perfect in the studio, especially the solos. But that's why I stopped playing classical violin in the first place."
Braeden shrugged. "Shouldn't take long to set up in the studio, and that late the women probably won't be using it."
"They can share," Derek said.
"Is everyone cool with that?" Scott asked, and when Boyd nodded, Scott said, "Cool. That's what we'll do."
When Derek hit the clubs with the demo there was already a little hum from their first performance. Word of mouth plus the music got them more and more gigs, and through November they were playing once or twice a week. Every time they played they got a little more momentum, a little more confidence, had a better idea of what was working and what wasn't. Not to mention there started to be familiar faces in the crowd—they were getting some actual fans.
Allison was at nearly every show, for which Scott was unspeakably grateful. Not just because she was his girlfriend now, but because she was the best critic he had outside of Derek and both of them had infinitely more experience at working a crowd than Scott did. His bands in San Francisco had mostly played small bars and house parties, where they weren't always the center of attention.
"You and Kira should be interacting more," she said one night at dinner. "You're mobile, you're singing harmonies—"
"So is Stiles!"
"Yes, but you walk back to visit him a lot, and Boyd, too. Stay up front with Kira a little more, where people can see you. Besides, you two have adorable chemistry."
"Chemistry?" Scott asked. "You make it sound like we're dating."
"If the audience thinks you could be, so much the better!" She smiled at his surprise. "I know I don't have anything to worry about."
"Smug," he said, but she wasn't wrong.
"No, just happy. Why shouldn't I be?" she asked, and kissed him.
In mid-November they went to a taping of the Marin Morell variety show, where Laura was appearing as a special guest. Her single was getting solid airplay across the country, and her album was being released just after Thanksgiving. For the Hales, Allison, Erica and Lydia this sort of thing was old hat; they'd all been on several variety shows, and in fact all of them had met Miss Morell and were remembered fondly by her when they saw her backstage. She even knew Boyd and Braeden—Boyd because he'd accompanied her for a week of dinner club appearances down in Orange County someplace, and Braeden because she'd worked sound on some other variety show.
"I'm surprised you remember me," Braeden said. "I was the assistant to the assistant to the assistant."
"A black woman doing a white man's job?" Miss Morell said, smiling. "Of course I remember you. I was just sad to hear that George here had you building his studio or I would have hired you for this show myself."
Scott was glad that he had Stiles and Kira around, and that it was all just as new and amazing to them as it was to him. He felt a little naive, watching, to find that moments he'd always thought were spontaneous when he saw them on TV were carefully planned and rehearsed, that the chatty moments between songs were memorized from a script or being read off a teleprompter. The music, on the other hand, was more live than he'd expected. Of course he knew that on TV shows like American Bandstand and Hullaballoo the acts all lip-synced, but Miss Morell had a band on set for her numbers and the two she was doing with Laura; Laura would only lip-sync her single.
"Lip-syncing is the worst," Erica said.
Cora nodded. "Let's try to do all our television appearances live."
"If we have them," Lydia said. "Let's not tempt fate."
"But if we have them?" Cora asked.
"Then yes, singing live is obviously preferable. Wouldn't you agree, Allison?"
"I … would," Allison said, "but why don't we cross that bridge when we come to it."
Laura's comic bit with Miss Morell involved teaching her a ridiculous dance she'd supposedly learned on her recent trip to England. Then they sang a Beatles cover and a medley of Supremes songs. There were some other comedic bits and performances from people Scott hadn't heard of (Kaye Ballard?) after which Laura came back out alone to lip-sync her single on a set that made her look like she was standing in a lakeside gazebo late at night.
By the time they got back up to the house for the late supper Isaac had made them, George had the latest copy of Billboard. He flipped quickly to the Hot 100 Singles chart and grinned. "You didn't just crack the top forty; you're number seventeen with a bullet!"
Laura squealed and everyone clapped. Number seventeen was impressive but—
"What does 'with a bullet' mean?" Stiles asked.
"Fastest moving single on the chart," Lydia replied.
"Which it would have to be," Laura said, "because it was number forty-five last week."
"Every pop station that didn't add you last week certainly will now," Erica said.
Scott blinked. "Wow, I never knew it was so complicated."
"Once we get you signed the label people will take care of promoting you to the stations," George said. "Let Derek and me worry about that, and you focus on the music. If what I've been hearing lately is any indication, you'll have nothing to worry about in any case. Neither will the women and their group."
Laura grinned. "Dad's building a music dynasty! And Mom's producing again. I thought you were retiring."
"Retirement is for aging chorus girls," Talia said. "Not wolves like us."
George looked at her, admiringly. "Your mother is in her prime," he said.
"Thank you, dear," Talia said, smoothing her hair.
Cora made a face. "Now look what you've done! They're going to start macking."
"Are you twelve?" Derek asked her.
"I don't know," Scott said, looking from the elder Hales to Allison. "I think it's kind of nice."
"Me too," Allison said, smiling.
George Hale, it turned out, was more than equal to the task of negotiating with his record company for both AHMR (as they'd taken to referring to the women's group) and Peace. He'd been given a small label of his own, the perfect place for AHMR, and Lydia and Erica's having already purchased their freedom from the Ravettes made it all less complicated than it might have been. George did have to call Gerard personally to ensure that Allison was free to sign with another label, but her father had already been softening him up and besides, he was more focused on Kate. For once, Gerard's disregard worked in Allison's favor.
Peace needed a proper rock label with solid radio station connections since they wouldn't be able to use names and pedigree to get their song on air. But George was armed with their demos and the self-released single of "Alone Again Or" they'd made to give to the southern California radio stations, as well as the growing local following for Peace, and he'd been able to make things happen. He brought Derek along to the meetings, as a kind of apprenticeship, but none of either band's members.
Derek had mentioned this one afternoon when he and Allison were hanging out at Stiles and Scott's place. Allison shrugged; she was used to her grandfather or her mother taking care of the business end of things, and George had certainly been around long enough to know how to get things done.
But Stiles patted Derek's knee, stiffly. "Trust is important in a relationship," he said, not sounding happy about it.
"Control issues, buddy?" Scott asked, grinning.
Derek laughed at that. "Stiles? Never!" he said, softening his words with a kiss to Stiles's temple.
"Just tell me everything that happens?" Stiles asked.
"Of course," Derek replied, and Stiles's shoulders relaxed.
While Peace had spent November playing out and cutting down-and-dirty demos, AHMR had been in the studio bashing their songs into shape. The arguments started when the other three women realized that Cora had a very clear plan for how all the songs should sound, even the ones she hadn't written, and had every intention of recording all of the instrumental parts other than Malia's drums.
Lydia all but growled at that idea, despite not being a wolf herself. "No fucking way."
Cora rolled her eyes. "You can barely play the guitar," she said, "and your piano isn't great, either."
"That's not the point!" Lydia replied, not even bothering to argue because Cora was right. "Erica is fantastic."
"Aw, thanks, babe," Erica said.
"Of course. And half the reason we left the Ravettes is because they'd never let her play. I won't let you take that away from her."
"No offense, but Erica's music is pretty poppy," Cora said.
"I learned from the best," Erica replied, because even in the face of Cora's occasional snobbery she was entirely unashamed of her musical origins.
Lydia smirked at Cora. "Something has to get us on the radio, sweetie. Even the Beatles still do granny songs."
Cora snorted, slouching back in her chair.
"Allison?" Talia asked. "Any thoughts?"
"Well," she began, then stopped, trying to think of the right words. "Cora is the best instrumentalist here, but we're all songwriters and probably have our own ideas of how we want our own songs to sound. I know I do. Can't we do both? If Cora wants to arrange and play everything, then she can do that, and at the same time we'll all work out our own versions and see where we are."
"More work for Malia," Erica said, turning to her.
"I don't mind," Malia said. "Getting back into playing just makes you want to play more, I think."
Lydia smiled. "That's always the way. If you don't mind, then I'm with Allison. If Cora wants to arrange my song, have at it, but I get to say no."
"You won't," Cora said. "Erica?"
"Just remember they're pop songs," Erica replied.
"How could I forget," Cora muttered, and Erica stuck out her tongue in response.
"Well, Braeden," Talia said, "sounds like we have our work cut out for us."
"Wouldn't be a good job if it wasn't a challenge," Braeden said, shrugging.
"I suggest, then, that we lay down a rough vocal for each song, so we all have something to work with," Talia continued. "And we'll have to schedule studio time if you all will be coming and going, not to mention whatever Peace might need."
"I think you'll find that, given a schedule, Erica and I will be very prompt," Lydia said. "The machine rewarded professionalism, and it became a habit."
Cora raised her eyebrows. "So we have that to thank for your not being a total drag of a diva?" she asked.
"And me," Erica said.
"Well, that I knew," Cora replied, and Allison had to laugh.
They each picked two of their own songs to move forward with, and for the next week, Allison sang all day and went to Peace shows nearly every night. With Malia in the corner keeping time for them on the bongos (they all had a tendency to rush, even more so when they were together and singing well) it was almost like they were back in the music room, which eased them into the recording process. Sometimes Scott or Kira or Laura hung out on the couches in the studio, listening in, but more often it was just the four of them, plus Malia, Braeden and Talia. Allison didn't think she'd ever been with musicians she trusted as much as she did these women—except her own parents, but they never had complete control of the music. Now the steering wheel was in her own hands, and she liked it.
For the song she'd written about Woodstock—which she was simply calling "Woodstock" because there was no reason to be tricky—she found herself gravitating to a simple piano arrangement, slow but urgent. But the suite about Kate needed more than that, and certainly something to unite the four pieces. Then one morning she woke up before Scott, having stayed over at his place after a Peace show the night before, and after making some coffee found herself picking up his bass from where it stood in the corner of the front room. She started messing around, echoes of the various Peace songs she'd so often listened to Scott practicing in her ears, but after a bit she realized what she was actually playing, and started singing softly to herself: it's getting to the point where I'm no fun anymore.
Scott emerged from the bedroom a little while later, nude and hair sleep-mussed, softly scratching his stomach, squinting into the sunshine coming through the window behind her. Her old man was a beautiful thing, and she couldn't help but smile.
Of course he smiled back. "You should plug in," he said as he headed to the bathroom.
She did, and picked up again from the beginning. By the time Scott had settled in the chair opposite her with his coffee, she was through to the third piece: ruby throated sparrow …
"Faster?" Scott suggested, and Allison started the piece again.
She could hear the little guitar fills she usually played herself in her head and yes, he was right. The momentum carried into the fourth and final piece, bridging them better even though there was a distinct shift in mood between them.
"It's beautiful," he said.
She set the guitar down on the couch nearby. "So are you," she said, climbing into his lap.
"Um," he said, and it always delighted Allison how easy it was to fluster Scott by complimenting him on his looks. "Don't you want to play that again, get it down?"
"I have it," she whispered into his ear. "I always remember important things, like how much you love to be kissed right here." She dragged her tongue across the base of his throat, and he gasped. "Besides, we both have the morning off, Stiles said he was coming by later, and you know how cranky he gets if we're still going when he gets here."
"If you're sure," he said, but he was already standing up, easily lifting her with him, and she wrapped her legs around his waist and let him carry her into the bedroom.
"I hate that you're right," Lydia said.
Cora grinned. "I know."
"Do you have to gloat?" Lydia asked, then turned to Erica. "Does she have to gloat?"
"I think so, babe," Erica said, patting Lydia's shoulder. "She's earned it."
"Five out of six," Cora said. "Can't win them all. But come on, Lydia. With those bluesy vocals you laid down what else did you expect?"
They agreed to move forward with Cora's arrangements for both of Lydia's songs as is, and for both of Erica's songs though they agreed that Erica would record the keyboard parts again herself and change them slightly. Cora had electrified "Woodstock", making it less about Allison's sadness at not being able to go and more of a celebration of the festival itself, and to that Allison had only one suggestion.
"Could Kira play on it, too?" she asked. "Some of the guitar—I think she could really add to it."
"Yeah," Cora said, nodding. "Yeah, that would be very cool."
But on the suite, even Cora had to concede that Allison's arrangement was better.
"So now comes the hard work of getting it right," Talia said. "We'll start with the suite I think. Hardest first is always best."
AHMR spent November and December in the studio. Peace spent November and December playing any club within reasonable driving distance that would have them—down to Orange County and San Diego, up to Santa Barbara and Bakersfield, east to a little place near Palm Springs where almost everyone in the crowd was a maid, cook, or gardener working in the houses and hotels in the area.
"Only direction we haven't gone is west," Stiles said.
Derek shrugged. "I could send you out to Catalina," he said, and Stiles's reply was a smack in the arm.
The local werewolf community came out to support them early, not surprising since two of their members and their manager were wolves themselves. Those first couple of full moons out on the beach with the omegas had made Scott more friends than he'd realized.
As soon as they got back to the Hale place they'd get into the studio and lay down one or two tracks. Kira, true to her own prediction, had to be kept from laying down take after take of her solos.
"I could do it again," she kept saying.
"You will," Derek replied, leading her out of the studio. "Tomorrow night, at the show in Venice."
Other than that, Derek's guidance was subtle, his suggestions sometimes made in the van on the way to the gig, sometimes in the studio. Changes were tried out nearly every show, incorporated or rejected, recordings played back to settle disagreements. Almost never was it two against two, and when it was, they'd just do it both ways until the preference was obvious to everyone.
In early December, Derek and Braeden put together the best takes of all the songs they'd recorded, and after some switching around of the order, some songs taken out for possible b-sides, they had ten songs they all felt they could stand behind and play every night on tour. It was then that they brought everyone else in—AHMR, Talia and George and Malia, even Isaac—to listen and get their feedback.
"'I Don't Want Another Woman' is the single, obviously," Erica said. "It's made for radio."
"She's right," George said. "Girl has an ear for a hook."
"Have you thought about other instrumentation?" Cora asked.
Derek turned to her. "What were you thinking?" he asked.
"'Alone Again Or' screams for horns. And the high trill Boyd is playing on Kira's song—great live but wouldn't a flute be amazing on the record?"
"Wow," Scott said, because even though Cora had arranged most of the songs on the AHMR record, he hadn't personally experienced the precision of her skills until now.
"Is that a good wow or a bad wow?" Allison asked.
"Good," Scott said, still absorbing Cora's words. He looked up at Derek. "I'm sure you know a ton of session people but my uncle plays trumpet in a band. I'd like to write something for him if that's okay."
"Absolutely," Derek said.
Derek brought in the flute player, someone who'd also played on Laura's record; she was a pro and made letting a stranger into their midst a lot easier than it might have been. Scott's Uncle David was bursting with pride, and had to be sworn to secrecy because Scott didn't want his mother hearing about the record from anyone but him. His playing brought out something in the song Scott hadn't even realized was there, that Cora must have heard, something that had soaked into his music during their time in East LA. He also played on another song Scott and Stiles had written together, about living on Sunset near the Whisky. Scott had sung a little guide track for how the horn line should go, but they decided to leave it in the final mix, like Scott was singing along with his uncle. Which he thought was pretty groovy.
They overdubbed all the vocals after that, to clean them up. Scott didn't even fight as Braeden pushed his lead vocal further and further up in the mix, though he really wanted to. He hadn't minded it on stage because he was thinking more about performance, about interacting with Kira and all of that, but sitting in the studio listening he still felt self-conscious. But Stiles, who always seemed to know what he was thinking, silenced him with just a look.
And that was that. The record was done.
What Scott hadn't anticipated was everything else that went with putting out a record. First there was the matter of selecting a release date that wasn't too close to other rock records, so radio stations would have “room” to add the single to their playlists. Luckily both the Beatles and the Stones had just released records, but one of the other dates they had to steer clear of was the release of the AHMR record. According to the head of the label, it was "highly anticipated" and slated for the end of January, and it was hard for Scott to reconcile the image the label had of AHMR as potential hit makers with the hard-working artists he'd come to know. The Peace album would be out after that: mid-January for the single and early March for the album.
Then the band had to meet with all the label's promotional guys who'd be putting the single in the hands of station directors and dee-jays. They were oily and loud, wore ill-fitting fringed suede jackets and flared jeans, and smelled like cocaine and alcohol. Scott didn't much like having to trust them, though George's assurances helped.
"Don't tell the women about that release date discussion, " George said as they rode away in his big station wagon after the meeting. "Talia's trying to keep the industry pressure away from them."
Taila was an alpha and had been in the business much longer than Scott had, so he was inclined to follow her lead. But he felt uncomfortable keeping information away from Allison, and said so.
"Lydia and Erica must know but they aren't talking about it either," Derek said. "Cora might after watching Laura, but she also might figure Laura took the hit for all of us. But I don't think it would even occur to Allison."
"Gerard always did overlook her," George said. "I expect Chris wanted it that way. Always one step ahead, that one. But that isn't the sort of pressure that produces good music. Hearing the work of others, your own ambition, of course. The sales projections of the label? No."
"I suppose that's true," Kira said.
Stiles cleared his throat. "What about you, Derek?"
Derek was sitting in the back, next to Stiles, but he looked out the window as he answered. "Pressure on me? You mean, like establishing myself in the industry as a producer in my own right and not just working for my parents? And how much my ability to do that would be helped by your record doing well? Is that what you mean?"
"I guess?" Stiles said, a little surprised at what was, for Derek, an outburst.
"Well, it's like Dad said. Telling you that wouldn't have made the record better."
"True," Stiles said, taking Derek's hand. "But I figure one of the reasons to have a boyfriend in the first place is to have someone to take your worries to. Isn't that what the songs say?"
"The square stuff, yeah," Derek said, turning to Stiles, but he was smiling just a little. "Sorry."
Stiles shrugged, suddenly looking self-conscious. "It's cool. Next time."
"Glad that's settled," Boyd said, and both Derek and Stiles turned around to get at him where he sat with Scott in the far back seat.
"Boys, boys," George said, but he was laughing as much as the rest of them.
Chris Argent decided to come out to LA for Christmas rather than Thanksgiving, which was just as well, as Allison was working so hard she wouldn't have been able to spend much time with him. She wouldn't even have seen much of Scott if he hadn't been practicing in the next room or sleeping in her bed. Sometimes he used it when she wasn't even in it but he was too tired to go back to his place in Hollywood. This she didn't mind at all; it was like a reward to drag herself upstairs and find him buried under the covers. She still made it a priority to get out to Peace's shows, though she missed one or two.
And so December went, in the studio whenever Peace wasn't. Malia became more confident in her playing every day, huddling with Stiles whenever she wasn't cuddling with Kira. Even Derek seemed settled into his skin somehow, having found his own path behind the scenes instead of on stage. Seeing him and Stiles together Allison was pleasantly surprised at how good Stiles was for him, how much they calmed each other down now that they were finally together, rather the opposite of how they'd behaved before. She might have thought that the pressures of the business would burst apart all these new relationships before they'd really had a chance, but then she remembered what Lydia and Erica had said about themselves, that working together made them stronger.
Then suddenly, on the 19th, Talia said, "Ladies, we're done. And just in time for Christmas, too."
Allison went to bed for the better part of three days—some of that with Scott—soaking up the brief bit of free time before the holiday.
Stiles's dad and Scott's mom were coming down to Los Angeles for Christmas, too, having been personally invited by Talia. Allison hadn't realized that they were married to each other, that Scott and Stiles were step-brothers as well as best friends. Melissa and John, as well as Dad, would be staying in the spare bedrooms in Talia and George's bungalow. Allison wasn't sure if she was more nervous about meeting Scott's mother or her father's reaction to Scott.
Fortunately Melissa was all welcoming warmth, but with an underlying steel that made Allison realize why Scott reacted to her the way he did, just assuming that she'd be doing her own thing. John was gruff but kind, and while he seemed perplexed at Stiles's choice of Derek, he was more accepting than Allison might have expected.
Scott said, "I think, after the insane asylum and all? He just wants Stiles to be okay."
Dad arrived a day later, on Christmas Eve, and he and Scott immediately began to pace around each other like two cats in a cage. Hoping to alleviate the tension, Allison hauled her father into the studio to listen to the record. He probably deserved to listen to the still-untitled suite without witnesses. What she hadn't been prepared for was for him to tear up almost immediately. She didn't think she'd seen him like this since Mom died; it was a little alarming.
"I'm sorry," he said, grabbing another tissue as the record ended. "You just sound so much like your mother." He cleared his throat and paused to regain his composure. "And that song about Kate." He shook his head.
"Do you think she'll be angry?" Allison asked. Not that it would change anything, but forewarned is forearmed, as Gerard always said.
"Of course not," Dad replied. "It'll please her too much to have inspired a song like that. Trust me. I know we don't see eye to eye with Kate or your grandfather but they really do care about the music."
"And it's good work," he continued. "Damn good work. Your mother would have been so delighted to hear this."
She smiled then. "Thanks, Dad. I'm pretty proud of it."
"You should be." He tapped his finger on the console. "And while we're alone, I'll tell you: I'm moving to Paris. Heading there for the New Year."
"Paris?" she asked, because their relatives lived closer to Lyon.
"Peter's there. You know him—Peter Hale, I mean."
"Oh," Allison said, and her face must have shown her surprise.
"He sent a note after your mom died," Dad said, "and we've been writing back and forth for a bit. He could use a friend about now and I could, too. We're talking about buying some motorcycles and riding around Europe, like the young people do nowadays. Anyway, it gives me a place to go, something to do."
She had little-kid memories of her father and Derek's Uncle Peter bringing their bikes on tour sometimes, riding behind the tour buses full of kids. Mom had only let Allison ride on the bike for short trips within towns, never out on the road, but she'd still loved it. She wondered, vaguely, if Scott might get a motorcycle one day.
Aloud she said, "Sounds fun. Make some new memories."
"Yeah, that's what I'm thinking," he said, nodding. "So, expect postcards."
"I will!" she said, laughing, and then he was laughing, too.
Then he shook his head. "Damnit, Allison, did it have to be a musician? And a werewolf on top of that?"
She looked up at the ceiling, feeling a bit sheepish. "Probably? You're a musician and you were a good dad."
"Through no fault of my own," he said. "Oh, come here."
They stood and he hugged her close. She'd forgotten how much she missed this, what she was giving up in her drive to be independent in her life and her music. But now she soaked in all of her father’s affection that she could get, in order to store it away for when they'd be separated again.
"Just give me a little while to get used to it?" he asked.
"If you're nicer to him in the meantime," she replied.
He sighed. "I'll see what I can do."
Christmas was both groovy and freaky, having Mom and John staying up at the Hale place, not to mention Allison's dad who Scott could tell did not think much of him. Allison had always said that her dad wasn't as controlling and weird as her grandfather, but Scott sensed that he still wanted to have a say in who his daughter was getting with. Scott figured Allison was an adult woman who could make those decisions for herself, and since she'd already chosen Scott, Chris Argent could just back off.
A bunch of them were hanging around on Christmas afternoon, between the present-opening and the big dinner Isaac was making, listening to Let It Bleed. Scott wasn't sure if maybe he liked the actual music of the Rolling Stones better than the Beatles; it was simpler, more visceral, made you want to get up and dance rather than sit and listen. And they were dancing, off and on, usually instigated by Malia, of course. Allison was off with her father someplace, and Mom and John were out for a drive with the elder Hales.
Stiles was on his side with the Chris Argent business, but also not much help. "It's too bad you're fighting with the man," he said. "He's super foxy."
"Tell it," Kira said, nodding as she danced with Malia to “Monkey Man.”
"I thought you were into chicks?" Boyd asked.
"I'm into everything, I think," Kira replied.
Malia grinned. “Me too,” she said, leaning in to kiss her.
"That's cool, that's cool," Boyd said.
Lydia shook her head. "You can be into chicks and think that Chris Argent is foxy," she said. "I do."
"Or Stiles's dad," Erica added. "Scott, your mom is a lucky lady."
Stiles made a face. "Come on, don't talk about a man's father like that."
"He is foxy," Derek said. "Frankly, it's distracting. But at least we know you'll age well."
"Thanks, baby," Stiles said, beaming.
"Oh sure, when he says it," Erica said, laughing, and Stiles threw a pillow at her.
A little while later, Allison came back around, her father in tow. He nodded to Scott. "This is that new Rolling Stones LP?" he asked.
"Yeah," Scott replied. "Live With Me" was playing, which of course made Scott think of Allison.
"I like that song with the girl singer," Mr. Argent added.
"We can put the needle back," Malia said.
"No, I don't want to—"
"No trouble," Scott said, walking to the phonograph to do just that. He didn't mind starting the record over, especially as it would postpone listening to "You Can't Always Get What You Want" with Mr. Argent in the room, and that might be awkward.
Malia had already been up, of course, but “Gimme Shelter” got the other girls dancing, and Stiles, too, and soon they were all up and moving at least a little.
"Come on, Mr. Argent!" Lydia said, grinning. "I'm sure you can shake a tail feather."
"No, no," he said, waving his hands.
Allison was dancing near Scott, and turned. "It's okay, Dad," she said.
"Haven't danced much since … well, since I lost my partner," he said, but he let Lydia bring him into their group. He wasn't too bad, for an old guy used to partner dancing. Though when the song ended, and the Stones started singing some old blues, he said, "Almost sounds like that girl is summoning something, doesn't it?"
"Yeah," Scott said. "Or trying to keep something away."
"Well, Merry Clayton is a banshee," Lydia said.
Which leant a darker aspect to what Mr. Argent had been saying. "Too bad what happened at that concert," he said.
"Wonder if she knew," Scott said. He was sure that if they hadn't been working so hard, or even more so if they'd never come down to LA, he and Stiles would have been at the free concert at Altamont to see the Stones, and he shuddered to think that a man died that night. "But I guess she wasn't there."
"Creepy," Malia said, and went to the turntable. "Let's listen to 'Live With Me' again and dance and not talk about death. It's Christmas."
"Sorry, sweetheart," Mr. Argent said, putting a hand on her shoulder, and she smiled at him in her faint way. "You're right."
Scott wasn't sure what it was, but by the time "You Can't Always Get What You Want" came around it wasn't awkward at all. The Hales came back with his parents not long after that, and then they had dinner, a roast beef and a ham at the center of the table.
Sometime in the middle of that Allison, who was sitting between Scott and her father, leaned close and said, "Thanks."
"For what?" he asked.
She cocked her head. "For trying."
"Of course I would," Scott said, and she grinned, which made it all worth it. Mom was on his other side, and it felt right having her and John at the table, made the Laurel Canyon house feel even more like home if she was welcome in it too.
"They're good eggs, the Hales," Mom said later, when everyone was drinking coffee or wine and starting to drift off to their bedrooms two-by-two. "Better than the San Francisco set."
"Yeah, it's pretty groovy," Scott said. "Stiles is happier, too."
"Gives John less to worry about, now that he's met Derek," she said. They were silent for a moment, and then she added, "Allison seems like a sweet girl."
Scott wasn't sure "sweet" would be the first word he'd use to describe her, but he'd take it. "I'm glad you like her."
"I'd like just about anyone who made you smile like that," she said. "And don't worry about her father. He'll come around. The only way a girl that young knows her own mind is if she was raised to know it, and that was at least partially his doing. He'll remember that by and by, you'll see."
"Cora says Mrs. Argent was strong-willed, too," Scott said. "So that's something me and her dad have in common."
"There you go," Mom said, nodding.
"Guess I was used to it, thanks to you."
She raised her eyebrows. "Then make sure your daughters know it, too," she said.
"Of course," Scott replied, and he couldn't help but glance over at Allison. They hadn't really talked about that part, but her own parents had been musicians and had a family, so he was optimistic. Anyway, there should be little girls who looked like her running around in the world, of that he was sure.
AHMR played in public for the first time at Marin Morell's New Year's Eve party at her house in Malibu. Scott’s own first band had played house parties, but this crowd was all Hollywood types and musicians—including Davy Jones, who sang Stiles's praises so much that Derek got a little jealous. Lydia had insisted on taking all the guys shopping for their outfits as her Christmas present to them, though Scott suspected it was just as much her present to herself. He didn't mind; with his new maroon suit he felt stylish enough to be with Allison, who was wearing a shiny mint green dress and brown boots.
No one would have suspected that Allison was singing later, because she wasn't nervous at all. She brought Scott around to all the people she knew, chatting and laughing, and they remarked at how different she seemed, how modern.
"That's what happens when you're free to do your own thing!" she kept saying.
AHMR set up in the corner of the big living room, near a huge picture window, making the Pacific a backdrop behind them. (Braeden hadn't been overly enthusiastic about the acoustics of the glass but Ms. Morell had prevailed.) Malia was playing with them, since it was a small gathering and they were only playing four or five songs. Stiles had learned their songs so he could step in at the last minute, but happily he wasn't needed.
Scott had seen AHMR playing together for months now, but not with other people around, and never with them all as dolled up as they were now. "This is literally our first gig," Lydia said, and the crowd all laughed because what a gig. Allison had the bass and Erica was near the keyboard, so they were going to start with Erica's song, "Carry On," which was smart. If they crowd knew anything at all, they'd be blown away as soon as they heard the first note of the four women singing together.
Turned out this crowd knew a lot. Even Scott couldn't hear any sound other than the music coming from the band—not a whisper, barely a rustle of clothing. Lydia's song about cutting her hair came up next, and Scott had to grin at the contrast between the pretty girl who sang pop in the Ravettes and the woman belting the blues in front of them. After that came one of Cora's musically intricate songs, and they finished, of course, with "Woodstock," the very first song Scott had ever heard Allison sing. The band was tight, all those weeks in the studio translating onto the stage as though they'd always been there. It occurred to Scott that the journeys of their two bands had been almost opposite, though it had all come full circle now.
The cheers from the crowd seemed to startle the band, but Scott wasn't surprised in the least, and probably would have protested at anything less. Kira was standing next to him, Stiles and Derek beyond her, and he was pretty sure they would have been with him.
"We'd like to thank my cousin Malia for sitting in with us," Cora said, pointing to her. "We're Argent, Hale, Martin and Reyes, thank you so much! We even ended on time so everyone get your glasses up and let's hear it for our hostess!"
Ms. Morell went up to the mike then, and the women in the band quickly divested themselves of guitars and scrambled to find their dates—or Stiles and Derek, who were acting as escorts for the other women. It felt unfair to Scott, suddenly, that he'd be able to kiss Allison at midnight but their friends would have to wait.
"How far ahead is Hawaii?" he asked.
"Three hours I think?" Allison said. "Why?"
"We should do this again, at home. So the others can do it too."
Allison grinned at him, as Ms. Morell counted down the last few seconds. "Welcome to the seventies," she said. "I think they'll be even better."
"I think so, too," he said, and kissed her.
So the Peace single was released—"I Don't Want Another Woman," as Erica had suggested—and while it didn't debut quite as high as Laura Hale's single had, it was doing well and everyone seemed optimistic. Conversations about a national tour were starting, though Peace would need to find a more established band to open up for. Allison was a little woeful at the idea of being away from Scott for so long, but that was the life of a musician after all. And she’d be out on tour herself in not too long, in any case.
AHMR went on the Mike Douglas talk show just before their own album release, the only guests for the entire hour, playing the same four songs they'd played at the New Year's Eve party. The women couldn't agree on what the single should be, the fight getting so bad that George decided to release the album without a single and let the radio stations work it out, which was almost unheard of in the States.
“If you women don’t have name recognition going for you,” Talia said, “no one does.”
The photoshoots and interviews came thick and fast after that—the album cover and inside sleeve, plus other promotional material. Look and Vogue dressed them in the latest fashions, much to Lydia’s delight.
"When being pretty isn't an obligation getting dressed up is much more fun," she said.
"Or when you can be pretty however you want to be, and not match your bandmates," Erica added. Certainly AHMR wore nothing like a uniform. Lydia put on the shortest skirts and highest heels she could find, while Cora was always in pants, frequently jeans.
Allison could see their point, as her clothing was more daring, and more her, than it ever had been with her grandfather around. Why, sometimes she even went without a bra when the dress plunged in the back. She'd been primped for shows and television appearances before, but never like this, never in a way that made her look her own woman. She usually had a guitar in her hand, at least, which kept her from feeling like a model. Getting made up wasn’t about the music exactly but it did sell her as a musician.
Interviews came along with the photoshoots, sometimes actually at the same time. It was clear that the reporters didn’t quite know what to make of a group of women writing their own songs and playing their own instruments, who’d come together of their own volition. No, they weren’t a girl group like the Ravettes, or singing the folk music that Allison and Cora had performed as kids. A rock group of women seemed beyond anyone’s imagination.
She also had to field questions about her family history—as did Cora, but she was still making music with her family while Allison decidedly was not—which she managed to deflect fairly well. Kate’s album still hadn’t been released, likely because Gerard was being a perfectionist, but her singles had done well enough on the country stations. The other questions were, frustratingly, mostly about Scott, and while she would have preferred not to talk about him, she and Cora had to give their bandmates some cover. Industry gossips had made much of Derek’s escorting them to Marin Morell’s New Year’s party, which also helped. Erica and Lydia were old pros at giving the reporters just enough but not too much, and laughed off hints that they were some kind of Venus flytraps, making meals of men. Allison laughed along, too, but felt sick over the necessary charade.
“I just don’t know what business it is of theirs whom any of us date,” she said in the car heading home after the Look session, which had been particularly intrusive.
"Welcome to the push," Lydia said.
Cora said, "Seems like we’re being pushed all over the place."
"Maybe," Erica said, "but when it's for your own music? It feels a lot better."
“And how much did we even get to talk about the music?” Cora asked.
“More than the Ravettes ever used to,” Lydia said. “We’re the product! We’re putting out an entire album of songs written about our lives. And the public thinks they’ve known all of us for years, only now we’ve changed. Of course they’re curious. We want them that way. Curiosity sells.”
“No wonder the Beatles always look so tired,” Allison said.
The night of the actual AHMR album release, George threw a huge party at the Whisky and invited what seemed like half of Los Angeles. Peace played a few songs, since they were all going to be there anyway and they had a single on the radio, so it was good exposure to be in front of such an influential crowd. Allison had no doubt that they’d go over well; every show they’d played in the fall had been better than the last. Scott and Kira’s adorably goofy interactions charmed the crowd, but the music won them over.
AHMR went up on stage after them, and Allison had never been so happy to have a guitar strapped to her again. They hadn’t played in front of people since the Mike Douglas taping, and Allison felt a little unmoored. She was very much looking forward to touring, to playing these songs every night, to getting her life back in the right proportion. It was also easy to take the mike that Scott had warmed up for her.
For the first time, they would be playing the entire record, starting with Allison’s song inspired by Kate, which she’d decided to call “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” to obscure its subject entirely. Allison didn’t get nervous about performing as a rule—she’d done it for far too long; the stage was like another home at this point—but she also hadn’t played the suite in front of anyone yet and she wasn’t sure how a four-part seven-minute-long song would come across. Then, just as she was playing the opening chords, she caught Scott’s eye in the crowd. When he smiled she couldn’t help but smile back, which chased the last of the jitters away. It was easy after that, and by the time they kicked into the final, catchy chorus that closed the song, the crowd was with them.
Erica’s song about sharing a house with Lydia also got its first airing that night, as well as Lydia’s political song and Cora’s song about wooden ships. They ended with “Woodstock,” but unlike at New Year’s where Cora played alone, Kira came up on stage to play her solo. Performing had always made Allison feel part of something bigger than herself—her family, the wider folk tradition, America itself—but this was something she had helped build, had had a say in its direction. She felt powerful, and looking at her bandmates, she could tell they felt the same.
When they got backstage Cora said, "Fine, you were right. 'Our House' is the single."
"I dunno," Erica said, mouth twisting sideways. "I was surprised by the crowd's reaction to Allison's suite."
Allison's brow furrowed. "It doesn't sound like a single."
"But it does sound like the rest of the record so maybe that's the point," Lydia said. "Throw down the gauntlet."
"I didn't mean we should dare people to buy it," Erica said.
Lydia replied, "No, but it's a good statement of purpose."
"I like it," Cora said with a shrug. To her mother, standing nearby, she asked, "Think we can get radio to play it?"
"Why not give those promotional fellows a challenge?" Talia replied.
"Allison?" Lydia asked, placing a hand on her arm. "What do you think, really?"
Allison laughed a little in her disbelief. She never would have thought of it. "I guess that's the single," she said.
The Sunday after the AHMR album release Allison was exhausted from her promotional duties and went to bed right after dinner. Peace wasn't playing a show, so Scott and Stiles just went back to their place together, the two of them, like old times. So of course they put on Let It Bleed, rolled themselves some joints, and just sat back and bathed in the music. This time when he heard "You Can't Always Get What You Want" Scott didn't think of Mr. Argent, but of going with Allison and everyone else to UCLA for the Moratorium. It had been quite a crowd that day, and the reunited Hales sang a few songs in between speakers, rousing the crowd to sing along. The non-Hales were off to the side, backstage, when a young man came up to Allison.
"Hey, man, didn't I see you singing for Nixon once?" he asked.
Allison looked startled, but she nodded. "Yeah, but that was my grandfather's bag, not mine," she said.
"Right on," the guy said, nodding. "My dad, too. That's why I saw you. Good to see you here."
She smiled at him, dimples showing, and Scott could sense her relaxing. "Good to see you here, too," she said, and shook his hand.
So as Scott changed the record, going back to Beggar's Banquet, he said to Stiles, "Does it ever seem like Derek knows a lot about some things, and then nothing at all about regular stuff?"
Stiles nodded. "One night we were here after a Peace show, kinda wired, so I just put on the tube, and they were playing some Twilight Zone rerun. And you know, he'd never seen it! Not one episode! Wild, huh?"
"Wild," Scott replied. "So, you guys are all right?"
"Better than all right," Stiles said, grinning in that slow lazy way he did when he was high. "You guys all right?"
"Definitely better," Scott said.
"Kira and Malia are better than all right, too," Stiles said. "At least, that's how Malia tells it."
"Groovy," Stiles said.
They were quiet for a bit after that, listening to the Stones and staring out the window at the lights down on Sunset.
Then Stiles said: "Man, our bands are far out!"
"Yeah," Scott said, and he was pretty sure his grin was as big as Stiles's. "Far out."
In the morning they went back to Laurel Canyon, for breakfast and to get the news. George came in just after them, having gone into his office to get the latest copy of Billboard. Everyone else was awake and sitting in the kitchen.
"Well?" Talia asked. "Don't keep us in suspense, dear."
"You ladies will be very glad to know that 'AHMR' entered the Billboard 200 at number thirty-seven."
Everyone was silent and seemed stunned. It sounded good to Scott, but he didn't have the experience with this that the others did, so he just took Allison's hand under the table. She held on tight.
Finally Erica said, "In one week, without a single and only TV promotion and a few ads and billboards, we sold—"
"A little over fifty thousand, probably," George said.
"Holy cow," Cora said.
"But that's not my only bit of good news," George went on, turning to another page in Billboard. "Because a certain band sitting around this table has a top ten single."
Scott didn't know what to do with that information. He sat, his mouth probably hanging open, until he felt Allison kissing him on the cheek and Stiles's familiar hands gripping his shoulder and shaking him.
"We did it, man!" he said, grinning.
"Your song!" Scott said, now that he'd found his voice again.
"Your band!" he replied.
George smiled at them. "So we'll have a couple of television appearances coming up, need to get some wardrobe for that. But that's not all."
"How can there be more?" Kira asked.
"Derek?" George asked. "Your idea. You tell them."
"Well, we didn't want to say anything before, in case it fell through, but with sales numbers like this, AHMR will be able to headline your own tour right out of the gate as long as you have a strong opening act. Like a new band with a top ten single." Derek smiled at them.
Scott's eyes widened. That they could actually tour together hadn't even occurred to him.
"Could be a great opportunity for both of you, to cross over these audiences," George added. "And you played together beautifully at the Whisky the other night. But if you want to discuss—"
"What's to discuss?" Lydia asked.
"Peace is a great band," Erica said. "Anyone would be lucky to have you open for them."
Cora added, "Have to admit, I wasn't looking forward to playing Kira's solo from 'Woodstock' every night. Now she can play it herself."
"I didn't think of that!" Kira said. "That would be super!"
"And we can work up some more stuff to play together if that sounds good to you, Scott," Cora continued.
"Sure," Scott said, his mind scrambling to catch up with everything that had been laid down in the last fifteen minutes. He took a breath, which helped. "Boyd?"
"Hey man, I've toured with people I didn't like before, and I wasn't looking forward to repeating the experience," he said. "So I'm in."
"Me too," Stiles said, "because that sounds like hell."
"You said it," Boyd replied.
Scott turned to Allison, trying to work out how to ask her in front of all these other people if it was really okay.
She spoke first. "You're sure you wouldn't mind?" she asked.
"Mind? Why would I mind?"
"Opening for your girlfriend's band?" she asked, shrugging. "Not exactly a man's job."
Scott scowled, confused. "Do people really think that way?" he asked.
"Wait 'til you meet her grandfather," Kira said.
"I was worried that being together that much would be too heavy for you," he said to Allison.
"More than this?" she asked. "I figured we could just handle it like we do now."
"Groovy," he replied. "So I guess we're going on tour."
"Laura's going to be so jealous," Cora said. "I'll just make sure she knows it's your idea, Derek."
"Like she isn't going to just show up and ride along in the bus with us whenever she isn't busy," Derek said.
"And you'll welcome her," Talia said firmly.
"I'd like to go, too," Malia said quietly.
Lydia turned to her, eyebrow raised. "On the tour?"
Malia shrugged. "I spent most of my childhood on tour. I'm used to that. And the few times we've played has been cool. I wouldn't mind playing every night."
"I can't promise there won't be any yelling on tour," Cora said.
"I'll yell back," Malia said. "Besides, Kira and Stiles will be there, too."
"Absolutely!" Kira said.
"Well!" George said. "Seems like the house is going to be pretty empty."
"Sure," Isaac said. "So I can—"
"You can go on tour," Talia said. "Make sure they get a few good meals into them. Not sure Cora would let you too far out of her sight, anyway."
"Mom!" Cora said.
"And once you're all on your way," Talia continued, "we'll close up the house and get away for a bit."
"We could check in on Peter," George said, smiling at her.
"How lovely," Talia replied. "We haven't been to Paris in years."
George turned to Braeden. "That's assuming that you—"
"I worked too hard on these records to trust the sound to someone else," she said, crossing her arms.
Derek chuckled at that. "Wouldn't have expected anything less."
"And?" she asked.
"And I'll make sure that you get whatever you need," he said dutifully.
"Good man," George said approvingly.
They opened the tour in San Francisco in March, as the radio stations and the record buyers there had been particularly supportive of both bands. Scott and Stiles being hometown boys helped with that certainly, and the crowd was behind Peace every bit as much as any of the LA club-goers had been. Allison thrilled to hear it, and to see the grin on Scott's face that he wore for the entire set.
"She sounds great, doesn't she?" Malia asked, her eyes on Kira.
Derek nodded. "She can let go in front of a crowd," he replied. "It's in the studio where she gets self-conscious."
They were standing just behind Braeden and her sound board, that being the best place to unobtrusively watch the show. Allison's bandmates were there, too, because why not watch the Peace show. She'd been watching them play for months, and now she'd get to see them nearly every night.
Besides, it took her mind off her own performance, about which she was having an uncharacteristic bout of nerves. AHMR had played at a small music festival out on Catalina back in February, but other than that they'd only done television appearances and a few showcases since their album release party. But their album was almost at gold status, and Allison felt the responsibility to give these new fans a good show. Peace would be a tough act to follow, but that was probably best; the crowd certainly wouldn't be cold when AHMR hit the stage.
For now, though, she could lean against Derek and watch her rock god of a boyfriend—at least, to her he was, and there were enough girls shouting his name that she probably wasn't in the minority, at least in this crowd. He was so comfortable on stage, leading his band with almost no effort at all, and no one would have known that at one time he'd had any kind of reluctance at being a front man. Kira and Boyd had blossomed under the trust and confidence Scott had in them, and of course there was no place Stiles would rather be than playing than behind his best friend. Now that he had a top ten single under his belt Stiles was writing more than ever, as were Kira and Boyd. Peace wasn't going to be a sophomore slump kind of band.
But as much as Allison respected Scott's music, she had long since admitted to herself that a good half of her pleasure in watching a Peace show was knowing that he was coming home with her—or back to the bus, at least for the next few months. Scott's hair was shaggier than ever, his forearms bulged out of his t-shirt, and his grin broad and handsome. She had to stop herself from remembering how his mustache felt against her thighs, or she might embarrass herself. Not that she was ashamed of how much sex she was having, but she also didn't need the teasing from Erica that was sure to follow if she was seen even licking her lips, never mind rubbing her legs together.
"We're Peace!" Scott was shouting, bringing Allison out of her reverie. "Thanks for coming out! This is our last song." The crowd cheered and booed in equal measure, and Scott laughed. "Don't you want to see AHMR? I do!" The roar was louder that time. "Right on! I think some of you might know this one. It was written by our drummer, Stiles."
Stiles stood up from behind the kit and waved. Some of the ladies in the audience started shouting his name, and hearing them he smiled and nodded.
Scott laughed. "Yeah, he wrote this when he was trying to get over a broken heart a few months back. But sorry, ladies, he's already taken."
Allison glanced over at Derek, who was grinning, but when she caught his eye his smile turned sheepish.
Cora poked Derek in the side with her elbow. "Two wolves, a hunter and a badass like Braeden? Those Peace groupies don't stand a chance."
Derek raised his eyebrows, but made no reply as the band kicked in to "I Don't Need Another Man," and the crowd roared in recognition.
"It's great to be back in San Francisco! You guys have been amazing!" Scott pushed his hair back from his forehead. "Go get a beer but come right back. The women will be on in a few minutes. We're Peace! Thank you!"
Stiles and Boyd came up to the front, next to Kira and Scott, and they all bowed together like the Beatles used to. Like Allison's own family used to, come to think of it.
They quickly made their way backstage, the curtain falling for the roadies to make the changeover. The sound check seemed like forever ago now, and the light dinner Isaac had made that she could scarcely eat. She found Scott and jumped into his arms.
"You were amazing!" she said.
"You will be, too!" he replied, grinning at her, and she had to restrain herself, give him only one kiss lest she distract herself from her job. He set her back down on her feet. "Go get 'em!" And when Scott looked at you like that, anything was possible.
Allison joined her bandmates by the side of the stage. They stood like football players in a huddle, arms around each other's backs, heads bowed and almost touching. They were quiet for a moment, just breathing each other's air, four musicians forming one band. Lydia's head popped up suddenly and she moved, letting Malia into their circle, and Allison smiled at her.
"Women," Cora said, "it's time to go to work."
Separating, Allison got her guitar from the roadie and stepped onto the stage just behind Lydia. It had been one thing to hear the roar of the crowd from the back, but now it hit her like a wave, making her a little breathless.
Erica stepped up to her mike. "Thanks!" she said. "We're excited to play for you!" She started the chords of "Carry On" and they were off, singing like they weren't in front of thousands of people but back in Laurel Canyon, in their little clearing, wearing Erica's flower crowns. Allison's nerves melted away and the instincts borne of a lifetime of singing took over.
It was easy after that. Sure, they were still working out their transitions, especially being able to tell when Cora had truly finished her guitar solos, but it was nothing that wouldn't get better with each show. The crowd was with them, at least, having been well warmed up by Peace. Lydia sang "Almost Cut My Hair" with a looseness she hadn't had since she'd first laid down the vocal track. The suite sounded better than it ever had, and the crowd even sang with them at the end. Their reaction to "Our House" was strong, too, and Allison suspected they'd all soon agree that Erica's song should be the second single.
"Peace was pretty groovy, doncha think?" Allison asked, and the crowd cheered. "Good, because we're bringing them back out to help us with this next song."
Erica gave up her spot behind the organ to Boyd, and Malia took up her bongos as Stiles got behind the kit, giving her a break before they might do any encores. Kira stood just behind Cora, and Scott near her. When everyone was ready, they nodded to her, and Cora started them off on "Woodstock." As she sang Allison couldn't help but think how far she and Kira had come since that day Gerard forbade her from going to that very festival. But she was having the last word now, singing about exactly what she liked. Kira played a blistering solo after the second verse, and then Lydia sang the harmony line on the third verse with Allison. It felt right having the men in the background, holding down the beat so the women could come to the front.
Kira and Cora launched into a guitar duel after that, keeping the song going longer even than it ever had in any of their tour rehearsals, and Allison had to laugh out loud, she was so delighted. Lydia, Erica and Malia were dancing, as they so often had back in the Hale house. Allison turned to Scott and he was grinning, too, nodding in appreciation of what Cora and Lydia were doing, and she felt a little chill because it was so right, was everything they'd been working for.
And from the look on Scott's face, he agreed.
Scott was pretty sure that his favorite part of every show was going to be the jam session on "Woodstock." Hearing Kira play like this, he just wanted to find more places to let her cut loose in their songs, too. She'd have to be encouraged to stretch out her solos for the live shows, but he was pretty sure that between him, Derek, and Malia they'd get her to do it. Their show had been great, and it was amazing to play in front of such a big crowd, but they could always be better. Maybe they could start playing some new songs, too, see how the audiences reacted.
Then Allison turned to him and looked so happy and so damn beautiful that his breath caught, and he came slamming back into the present, yes, but also into the future that the two of them would share. If the seventies were starting like this, they were going to be fantastic.
Cora stepped up to the mike, when the song wrapped up. "We are Argent, Hale, Martin and Reyes, and you have been a far out crowd, man! Thank you and good night!"
Of course the women played an encore, where Cora and Allison broke out a couple of the folk standards they'd grown up singing, and they played an acoustic version of a Ravettes song, before finally leaving the stage. By then Scott had put his bass away, which was a good thing because Allison came off the stage and immediately pulled Scott away from the others, down a hallway and into some kind of office, shutting the door behind them.
"What—" he began, but couldn't finish because she was kissing him, and backing him into the door.
"Tomorrow night, before the show," she said, "I'm putting a condom in your pocket."
He laughed, breathless. "Dunno how you expect me to concentrate enough to play a show."
"You'll get used to it," she said, shrugging, and she was so casual about it that he had to kiss her again.
"Don't have one now," he said.
She slipped off her panties—she was wearing a minidress and boots—and hopped up onto the desk. "Guess you'll have to get on your knees."
And he was more than happy to comply.
They slipped unobtrusively into the main backstage area a bit later, or at least they thought they did until Erica started laughing.
Lydia raised an eyebrow. "I thought it would be those two sneaking out for post-show sex," she said, pointing at Stiles and Derek, "but clearly I've underestimated you, Allison."
"I told you, drummers need recovery time," Erica said.
"What about you two?" Cora asked.
Erica laughed again. "Trust me, after you've made it in most of the amphitheaters in North America, backstage quickies lose their appeal."
"Well," Allison said, raising her eyebrows at Scott. "Sounds like a challenge to me."
"Oh my god," Cora said, rolling her eyes.
Scott loved how modern Allison was about sex, absolutely, but it still caught him up short sometimes. "Um, okay?"
Any more discussion of their sex lives was thankfully curtailed by the arrival backstage of Talia and George Hale, along with Scott and Stiles's parents, who had all been sitting in a VIP section in the balcony of the theater.
"Oh my dears!" Talia said, walking in with arms outstretched and pulling Cora and Erica close to her. "You were splendid tonight, just wonderful!"
"Thanks, Mom," Cora said.
Scott's own Mom was giving him a hug, too, and then Allison. "So proud of you both," she said. "You've worked so hard, and to see all of this!"
"Can't wait to tell your dad all about it," George said. "He's going to be tickled pink!"
"He sent me the sweetest telegram this morning," Allison said, smiling.
George leaned in closer. "Heard from any of the others?"
She nodded, squeezing Scott's hand just a little tighter as she did. "I got a telegram from Kate, too."
Scott had read it that morning and hadn't thought much of it—the kind of thing you might send to an acquaintance, or someone you worked with once, not a supposedly beloved niece.
"Still working on that album, is she?" George asked.
"Apparently Gerard is having trouble finding songs," Allison replied.
George hummed, sounding unsurprised. "Your grandfather always has been very particular," he said.
"You're so diplomatic, Dad," Cora said as she walked toward them. "Just say he's a rigid jerk since that's what you're thinking."
"I shudder to think what might happen if you ever became an alpha," George said, shaking his head.
"Well, that's Laura's bag, so we won't have to worry," she replied. "Also, my old man set out some food, so everyone should eat. They're letting in the other backstage types in a little bit."
Scott was well into one of Isaac's excellent ham salad sandwiches when people started coming in—some he recognized from the label, a few from the local radio stations. Liam and Mason were a sight for sore eyes, and Scott and Stiles welcomed them warmly and introduced them around.
Then he heard a low growl—from Erica, of all wolves—and looking to the door he saw Jackson and Danny.
"Yuck, who invited them?" Stiles asked.
"I … might have?" Scott said, because he honestly couldn't remember all the names he'd given to the label. They'd kept asking him for more; it was weird.
But it was Lydia who spoke first. "Hello, Jackson. Been a while."
"You look good," he said, nodding to her. "The hippie thing suits you."
"Thanks, but everything suits me," she said.
Scott was scowling, trying to work out how Jackson and Lydia even knew each other. Then Stiles said, "Wait, was Lydia—was she your super secret girlfriend from a couple of years back?"
"I was a secret?" she asked. "I suppose that explains why I never met any of your friends other than Danny."
"Couldn't trust Stilinski to be cool," Jackson said, "not that he's really a friend. Anyway it wasn't any heavy thing for you, either."
Lydia glanced at Erica. "No, it wasn't. I was otherwise engaged. I just didn't realize it yet."
"What's with your friend and her fangs, anyway?" Jackson asked, scowling at Erica.
"She's my bandmate," Lydia said, taking her hand. "And my old lady, as it happens."
He gave Erica a long look up and down. "Well, if you're going to let that freak flag fly, might as well be with a fox," he said.
Malia, standing nearby, made a face. "Is there an actual reason you're here?" she asked.
Scott said, "We used to be in a band together, right before we moved down to LA."
"Saw you on Ed Sullivan, so you've done all right," Jackson said. "Looks like you decided to be a front man after all. Get a little more sex in there and you might really have something."
Allison put an arm around Scott's waist. "I think he's got plenty of sex going on," she said.
"Hey man, that's cool," Jackson said.
"No, you were right," Scott said, and held out his hand. "Thanks."
Jackson shook it. "Of course I was."
The rest of the evening went past in a blur of glad-handing radio station guys and posing for pictures; Scott was glad when it was over and they were getting back on the buses for the overnight journey to their next concert stop: Portland, Oregon. He was sad to say goodbye to his parents, of course, and starting the tour near their hometown had meant that Mom and John could come give them a real send-off. But he was impatient to get going, to get his first real tour under his belt, to see the country and play for as many people as possible.
Supposedly there was one bus for Peace and one for AHMR, but much as it had been in the Laurel Canyon house Scott figured sharing their space would be more fluid. For this first leg of the journey, Scott and Allison were on the Peace bus with Malia, Kira, Derek and Stiles. As they pulled away they were still a little too wired to sleep and sat lazing on the couches, passing around a joint.
"I'm glad you're not in a band with those guys anymore," Malia said.
"Me too," Kira said. "They didn't seem cool."
Stiles took a hit before passing it to Allison. "They weren't. Derek's hotter than Danny anyway."
"Thanks, babe," Derek said.
"You and Boyd make a better band," Scott said.
Stiles nodded. "Which isn't saying much because Jackson isn't a very good guitar player. Kira is amazing."
"Kira is amazing," Malia said, snuggling closer to her. "Thanks for bringing her out to LA, Allison."
"You're very welcome," Allison said, exhaling. "You boys should give her longer solos."
"We're going to," Scott replied.
"Really?" Kira asked, eyes wide. "Thanks! Cora already said we should jam in the bus sometimes."
"You absolutely should," Derek said, nodding.
Stiles took a last, deep hit off the joint. "Okay," he said, trying not to exhale too much. "Gonna go fuck my boyfriend now."
"Good idea," Malia said. "I'll do that, too."
"Fuck my boyfriend?" Stiles asked, cocking his head.
"No?" Malia said. "Why would I do that when I have an amazing girlfriend?"
"I don't know?" Stiles asked, and looked over at Scott, confused.
"Well, I wouldn't." She stood up. "Good night! Come on, Kira."
Kira took her own last hit and handed the joint to Allison. "I'm amazing! Good night."
"She doesn't always make sense, right?" Stiles asked.
"Neither do you," Derek said. "Let's go to bed before you confuse anyone else."
Scott and Allison waved as they walked to the bunks, and then it was just the two of them, cozy on the couch.
"So, is this what you pictured?" Allison asked. "Months living on a bus just so you can play a show every night?"
"You grew up like this and you're still doing it."
"True," Allison said, carefully putting out the joint and setting it in the ashtray. "So this is our future?"
"Looks pretty good to me, man," Scott said, pulling her in close.
"Yeah," Allison said. "Me, too."